While the world celebrates Valentine’s Day on February 14, there’s another reason that brings the day closer to the heart – It also happens to be Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Day. Congenital heart defects have increased tenfold in the past decade.
City-based Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences sees about 60 to 80 (new and old) paediatric cardiac cases on a daily basis. Diagnosed with patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), a congenital heart disease, eight-and-half-month-old Shweta (name changed) is all set to undergo a medical procedure called surgical closure of her heart at Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences. Shweta was all of two months when a paediatrician suspected she had a heart problem and referred her to Jayadeva Institute.
In another case, two-year-old Aradhana (name changed) recently underwent a device closure procedure at Jayadeva Institute after she was diagnosed with PDA.
When an infant develops PDA, abnormal blood flow occurs between two of the major arteries connected to the heart. Before birth, these arteries are connected by a blood vessel. Within minutes or upto a few days after birth, the blood vessel closes. This change is normal in newborns. In some infants, however, the blood vessel remains open, allowing oxygen-rich blood from the aorta to mix with oxygen-poor blood from the pulmonary artery. This can strain the heart and increase blood pressure in the lung arteries.
Consumption of alcohol by either of the expectant couple, rise in usage of termination drugs, women marrying late are some of the reasons attributed to the rise in congenital heart defects among newborns. In Aradhana’s case, it was learnt that her father was in the habit of consuming alcohol.
Fever and cold among pregnant women also signal the possibility of heart defects in the baby. That apart, if an expectant mother does not receive MMR vaccination, chances are high that her baby may developing congenital heart defect, as it was in the case of Shweta.
“Consumption of alcohol by expectant mothers is a proven risk factor for developing atrial septal defect (hole in the heart). This has been a major cause for the rise in congenital heart defects. We are also seeing cases of foetal alcohol syndrome where the babies are born with low birth weight, and blue baby syndrome, resulting in mental retardation and Down’s syndrome. In addition, increasing use of termination drugs and women marrying late are among the risk factors,” said Dr IB Vijaylakshmi, paediatric cardiologist, Sri Jayadeva Institute of Cardiovascular Sciences.