Hope for Kids with Heart Disease
February is American Heart Month,
Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week takes place February 7-14
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports each year in the U.S., nearly 40,000 babies are born with a congenital heart defect. February is American Heart Month and Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week is February 7-14, making it the perfect time to learn more about how congenital heart defects concern nearly two million infants, children and adults across the country as they age.
The population of people living with a congenital heart defect is growing due to early diagnoses and evolving medical care for those with heart defects. While severe heart defects can be determined during birth or shortly thereafter, minor defects are often diagnosed during a routine medical checkup.
“Regular visits with a cardiologist are important when you or your child live with a congenital heart defect,” says Justin “Mac” Vining, MD, a pediatric cardiologist at Wolfson Children’s Hospital at Tallahassee Memorial Health Care. “Wolfson advocates for and offers a full continuum of care for heart health—from pediatric patients who are newly diagnosed through their adulthood, when they still need physicians with expertise about their condition,” adds Michael Shillingford, MD, chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Wolfson Children’s Hospital and faculty member of UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.
Congenital heart disease (CHD), often known as a congenital heart defect, is an abnormality in the heart that develops prior to birth. Sometimes, there can be multiple congenital heart defects. The most common birth defect in the U.S., CHD develops when the heart or blood vessels near the heart don’t develop normally before birth.
While some heart defects are detected via ultrasound during pregnancy, many heart defects may not be identified until the baby is born or later during childhood. Some heart defects may be detected with routine newborn oxygen screening at the hospital. Low oxygen levels may indicate congenital heart disease and would likely lead to further diagnostic tests. And sometimes, CHD can’t be detected until a child’s routine well check-up at the primary care provider’s office.
Depending on the heart defect, symptoms can vary. Congenital heart disease can affect oxygen levels, giving the child a “blue” appearance. Some babies with CHD have very low blood pressure after birth. Heart conditions can also impact the infant’s breathing, feeding, and weight gain. Minor heart defects may not have symptoms at all.
If your child’s primary care physician suspects your child might have a heart defect, your child will likely be referred to a pediatric cardiologist. Pediatric cardiologists are specially trained to diagnose and treat heart problems in infants, children and young adults.
Most serious heart defects will require interventional treatment, such as a cardiac catheterization procedure, or heart surgery at a children’s hospital. The type of heart defect will determine when and if such treatments are needed.
Wolfson Children’s Hospital continues to improve care for babies, children and adults with congenital heart diagnoses by offering the latest in advanced treatments, diagnostics and surgery. Offering heart expertise and services at seven centers conveniently located throughout Northeast Florida and Southeast Georgia, Wolfson Children’s serves patients regionally and worldwide.
Services provided at Wolfson Children’s Hospital facilities are provided primarily by pediatric physician specialists with Nemours Children’s Specialty Care, Jacksonville, and the University of Florida College of Medicine – Jacksonville.