Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), is prevalent worldwide and is still one of the leading causes of infant mortality in our country which is around 10%. Over 2.4 lakh children are born with congenital heart disease every year in our country which amounts to a tremendous disease burden. This weighs heavily not only on the child but also on their parents, society and the entire health care of the nation. Many of the CHDs can be diagnosed with simple echocardiographic imaging early on in life.
CHDs may be classified into Acyanotic Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) or Cyanotic Congenital Heart Disease (CCHD, ‘blue babies’) including the duct dependent lesions. The former usually have increased blood flow to the lungs due to a hole in the heart, resulting in repeated lower respiratory tract infections in children, poor weight gain (‘failure to thrive’) and worsening pulmonary hypertension that can be detrimental over years.
The ‘blue babies’, for example, Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF), have a more complex variety of lesions that cause the oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to mix in varying degrees which results in the body receiving blue deoxygenated blood. This can hamper the functioning of the heart itself over time and can cause sequelae affecting various organs in the body.
Rheumatic fever and rheumatic heart disease, which occur after a sore throat in some individuals, is still very prevalent in our country and can cause a variety of mixed intracardiac valvular lesions. Simple preventive measures like good hand and bodily hygiene, preventing sore throats, treating them and long-term prophylactic measures can go a long way to curtail this disease.
The timely diagnosis of these lesions is important but is not always done due to various reasons some of which include inability to avail health care due to poverty, large number of home deliveries still, cultural and social taboos, lack of awareness of the availability of screening programs/financial funding in various hospitals for such afflicted kids, limited government schemes in majority of treating hospitals. With more awareness of these conditions including the social and financial burden it causes on the families and society, it would help if every individual takes up this fight to diagnose and treat these diseases early on.
Early diagnosis may be made in some cases as early as 20 weeks in-utero (5th month of pregnancy) and a set plan can be made for caring for kids with such diseases. Awareness programs and financial aid in the form of government schemes/ help from various non-profit organizations/ voluntary contributions to this cause would go a long way in helping such ill kids to give them a better future and to better the health of the nation.
- Dr. Nischal Rajendra Pandya, Consultant, Adult & Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon, Fortis Hospital Bannerghatta Road