This past week, you would have been hard-pressed to go anywhere without seeing heart decorations or heart-shaped candies celebrating Valentine’s Day. Hearts, however, were also the focus of a recent nationwide effort to draw attention to the most common birth defect in the country: congenital heart defects.
Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week ran from Feb. 7 to Feb. 14. CHD affects tens of thousands of babies each year and varies in severity. It can be minor. It can be deadly. In any case, CHD can put onerous physical, emotional and financial strains on anyone who is diagnosed with CHD and their families.
Let’s take some time here to review what CHD Awareness Week covered, and let’s talk about about some basic facts surrounding CHD you may not be aware of: Who does it affect? Why does it occur? What’s being done to treat it?
To draw attention to CHD, some organizations, like the American Heart Association, asked people to change their social media profile pictures to support CHD Awareness Week. News organizations picked up on CHD Awareness Week, too. Read a story from a Memphis television station here. Watch a touching story here about a South Carolina family that is spreading the word about CHD this week – days after their 17-month-old son, Stone, died from congenital heart defects.
Before we get into more about CHD, remember you can read more about CHD on our website here.
Lots of people have heard of congenital heart defect, but can’t fathom how many children are actually diagnosed with the serious condition each year. Here are some numbers from SecondsCount.org, the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute and the American Heart Association to put CHD’s impact into perspective:
- 1 out of 110: The number of babies born in the United States each year with a heart defect.
- 35,000: How many babies are born in this country per year with congenital heart disease.
- More than one million: The amount of Americans currently living with congenital heart disease
- 90 percent: The percentage of children born with congenital heart disease who will live until adulthood. It’s important to remember that though CHD can be very serious, even fatal, because of improving treatments, more people who are born with CHD than ever are living long, fulfilling lives.
24 percent: How much CHD-related deaths dropped between 1999 and 2006. Treatment for CHD is better than it’s ever been and continues to improve.
What is CHD?
Congenital heart defects can cover many different types of heart problems. In any case, the term covers many ailments that involve something wrong with the structure of a newborn’s heart, heart wall, valve or blood vessels. The baby’s heart is somehow defective. The impact can range from minor to life-threatening. Valves that control oxygen might not be attached in the right place. The walls that separate the two sides of the heart can have holes. Normal blood flow can be disrupted, pumping less oxygen to the person’s heart and body. Other defects can affect the heart’s rhythm.
What Causes CHD?
This is a tough question to answer. In many CHD cases, a cause is never officially found. Several hazards, however, have been linked or proven to increase the chances of a newborn being diagnosed with CHD. Some of those hazards include:
- Having been exposed to certain pollutants during pregnancy
- Smoking during pregnancy
- Taking certain prescription medications
- Low levels of maternal folic acid in the mother
- Maternal viral infections during the first trimester
- Poorly managed pre-birth diabetes
Genetics is also believed to be a significant contributor to CHD. Scientists have been examining CHD’s relation to genetics in hopes of better treating the ailments. From a 2010 study published in Current Cardiology Review:
“Cardiovascular malformations are the most common type of birth defect and result in significant mortality worldwide. The etiology for the majority of these anomalies remains unknown, but genetic factors are being recognized as playing an increasingly important role.”
Common Types of CHD
CHD can come in many forms. Here are some of the most common types of CHD with links to read more about each on our website.
- Atrial Septal Defect: A hole in the wall that separates the two upper chambers of the heart.
- Ventricular Septal Defect: When there are one or more holes in the septal wall between the bottom chambers of the heart.
- Coarctation of the Aorta: A narrowing of the aorta.
- Double Outlet of the Right Ventricle
- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome: When parts of the left side of the heart are undeveloped.
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn, or PPHN: When the baby’s circulation system doesn’t properly adapt after birth.
- Pulmonary Atresia or Right Ventricular Outflow Tract Obstruction
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Transposition of the Great Arteries: When the aorta switches places with the pulmonary artery.
- Truncus Arteriosus: When the aorta and pulmonary artery become one blood vessel.
Treatment for CHD
Not all forms of CHD require treatment, though most do. The treatment in some cases can be life-saving. Here are some of the ways CHD is treated.
Medications: Newborns with CHD are frequently prescribed medications to treat their ailments. Linked here is a list of some common medications and their uses.
Pediatric Interventional Procedures: A field that has developed rapidly over the past 25 years, these are an alternative, less-invasive option to open-heart surgery, requiring catheters to repair heart and blood vessels.
Surgery: Some congenital heart defects can only be treated with surgery. Read here about what can be some of the most delicate work for doctors to perform.
It should be noted that there are constant advances being made in treatment for all type of CHD. Modern medicine has transformed the way CHD, the most common of all birth defects, is detected and treated, saving and improving thousands of lives.
Your Right to Legal Counsel
The public should be aware of not only the dangers of birth defects, but also that if your child is diagnosed and you believe someone is at fault, you should contact an attorney. We offer a free consultation for anyone looking to have their case reviewed.
It is your right to speak up for you and your child. Be their voice. Doing so may help your family and others.
If you believe your child’s birth defect was caused by exposure to a dangerous or defective product during pregnancy, contact our attorneys whenever you are ready. We’ll go over your case for free. We’ll be waiting to help.