Ensuring the well-being of a child's heart is of paramount importance. Heart issues in children can emerge early in life and persist throughout childhood. While congenital heart defects are the most prevalent cardiac disorders in newborns, other conditions can also affect their delicate hearts. Heart problems are quite common in children (1 in 100). However, Dr Prachi Bhosale Narendra, Neonatology & Pediatrician, Apollo Cradle & Children’s Hospital, Marathahalli, Bangalore says that children with minor heart problems often may live long and normal lives without treatment.
Common Childhood Heart Conditions
Congenital Heart Defects: Congenital heart defects are structural abnormalities present in a baby's heart from birth. These defects can affect the heart walls, valves, and blood vessels. While some are minor and may not require immediate treatment, others can be severe and life-threatening. Heart defects develop when the baby is still growing in the uterus. The reason might be unexplainable; sometimes it can be genetics or certain illnesses in childhood that can cause damage. In these defects, the valves can be narrow or blocked, the good and bad blood can get mixed up or the blood may not get pumped very well.
Heart Infections: Although less common, infants can develop heart infections such as endocarditis or myocarditis. These infections can lead to inflammation and damage to the heart muscle, affecting its function. To prevent long-term consequences early detection and treatment are important.
Cyanotic Heart Disease: Cyanotic heart disorders are conditions that lead to low oxygen levels in the blood, resulting in bluish discolouration of the skin and lips (cyanosis). Babies with cyanotic heart disease require prompt medical intervention.
Arrhythmias: Newborns can experience abnormal heart rhythms, known as arrhythmias. These conditions can cause the heart to beat too fast (tachycardia) or too slowly (bradycardia). While some arrhythmias resolve on their own, others may require medical treatment.
Acquired Heart Conditions: Some heart issues in children can develop as a result of infections, autoimmune disorders, or other factors. Myocarditis (heart muscle inflammation) and rheumatic heart disease are examples of acquired heart conditions.
Signs and Symptoms
The symptoms of heart disease in children can vary widely depending on the condition. Common signs include difficulty breathing, rapid breathing, bluish skin or lips (cyanosis), poor feeding, failure to thrive (insufficient growth), fatigue, chest pain, and irregular heart rhythms. If any of these symptoms are present, seeking medical attention is crucial.
There are some simple, quick, and painless diagnostics techniques like X-RAY chest and eco-cardio gram (ECG), USG, or 2D echo of the heart.
The treatment of childhood heart conditions depends on the type and severity of the condition. Treatment options may include medications, catheter-based procedures, open-heart surgery, or heart transplantation. Many children with minor heart abnormalities may not require medical intervention.
While the discovery of heart abnormalities in newborns can be distressing, early detection through prenatal ultrasounds and postnatal assessments is essential for accurate diagnosis and timely intervention. If you notice any signs or symptoms of heart issues in your child, such as rapid breathing, poor feeding, or bluish skin discolouration, consult a medical expert. With prompt intervention and appropriate medical care, many cardiac conditions in children can be effectively managed, allowing these little ones to lead healthy lives.