Congenital and Structural Heart Defects: some facts

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We frequently do get the question: What heart defects can SensiCardiac detect? The short answer is any structural defect of the heart that will create a murmur. The most common structural defect among children is a congenital heart defect (CHD) and is a structural defect presented at birth. In most cases this defect will be undiagnosed at discharge after birth. Common examples of CHDs include holes in the inside walls of the heart and narrowed or leaky valves. In more severe forms of CHDs, blood vessels or heart chambers may be missing, poorly formed, and/or in the wrong place.

Globally, every 100th baby is born with a CHD and is therefore the most common birth defect. Nearly 40,000 infants in the USA are born annually with CHDs. CHDs are therefore as common as autism. Between two and three million individuals are thought to be living in the United States with CHDs, with many of these individuals not being aware of it. Except for patient records, there's no other system in place to track CHDs beyond childhood. Due to improved care, the number of adults living with CHDs is increasing. The result is that CHDs are now the most common heart problem among pregnant women.

CHDs are still the most common cause of infant death due to birth defects. Nearly one in every four babies born with a CHD will need surgery or other interventions to survive. Most babies with a CHD will reach adulthood, but will face a life-long risk of health problems such as issues with growth and eating, developmental delays, difficulty with exercise, heart rhythm problems, heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest or stroke.

Although 15-20% of all CHDs are related to known genetic conditions, most causes are unknown. A combination of factors can lead to a CHD, but in most cases the damage is already done before most women know they are pregnant.

A structural defect of the heart can also be acquired later in life.Some infections and disorders that may lead to heart disease include:

  • Rheumatic fever, in which a streptococcal bacteria affects the mitral valve, causing it to become narrowed (most often) or leaky. Mitral Stenosis is seen much less frequently than in prior decades. This defect is very common in the developing world.
  • Endocarditis, a potential life-threatening infection in which bacteria attaches to the heart valves, destroying the valve and leaving scar tissue behind. These germs most often enter the body through improper sterilization during surgery or through poor dental hygiene.
  • Carcinoid tumors, rheumatoid arthritis, lupus or syphilis.

In most cases the symptoms of a structural heart defect may go undetected, but signs can occur suddenly and increase in severity as the disease develops. During the early stages the only sign of a structural defect could be a feint murmur.

 

Please visit the following websites to learn more about heart defects: www.heart.org and www.chphc.org

 

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