Congenital Heart Defect Diagnosis and TreatmentIf your infant or child is experiencing increased fatigue, blue tinting of the skin or other conditions indicative of decreased or altered blood flow, the pediatrician may suggest testing for a congenital heart defect. There are various methods of testing to achieve a definitive diagnosis. After diagnosis, parents are given a choice of treatments based on the diagnosed condition and the severity of the condition.

Diagnosis of Congenital Heart Disease

Some congenital heart defects are found during a pregnancy ultrasound. If this is the case, the condition is verified usually with an additional ultrasound test called an "echocardiogram". This helps to take care of the newborn baby after birth to ensure proper treatment. Not all congenital heart defects are found during ultrasound. In these cases, symptoms in infancy and childhood bring parents into the pediatrician with a concern and testing is completed that may result in a diagnosis of congenital heart disease.

The physician will take a complete family history as a baseline for possible genetic or hereditary conditions. Symptoms and current health are then discussed. A complete physical exam is then completed. If symptoms are in line with a congenital heart defect or congenital heart disease, the pediatrician will likely schedule further testing.

Testing for congenital heart disease may include:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Chest X-ray
  • Pulse oximetry
  • Cardiac catheterization

All tests give the attending physician information about the heart, including a physical picture, blood flow analysis and electronic rhythm emitted by the heart. If there is a problem, these tests will find it and the diagnosis will be established based on the results.

Treatments for Congenital Heart Disease

A diagnosis of congenital heart disease may sound overbearing, but there are mild cases that require no medical treatment. When your child is diagnosed, you will be given detailed information on the specific condition and the severity of the condition. Treatments are determined on a patient to patient basis.

Two treatments used to repair more severe congenital heart defects are catheters and surgery. Catheters are fed into a vein where they are pushed to the part of the heart affected by CHD and repairs are made via the vein. These repairs are less invasive than surgery and take far less time to heal.

Surgery is another option, but doctors do not approach this lightly. Open heart surgery is typically reserved for severe conditions. Surgery is used to close holes, patch holes, open narrowed arteries and repair multiple defects. If the condition is extreme, a heart transplant may be needed.

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