Heart defects: learn more

Congenital heart defects, or CHD, are structural problems with the heart that a child is born with. 
CHD affects 1 in approximately 100 children and can affect anyone, most times with no known cause. They are also the most common birth defect in children, affecting over 40,000 babies in the US each year and over 1 million babies worldwide.

There are about 35 different types of CHD, ranging from a simple heart murmur that the child may grow out of to one of the most serious defects, Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome- where the left side of the heart did not form correctly.

Heart defects occur while the baby's heart is forming. With some defects, a valve in the heart may not grow correctly causing a disruption in blood flow, or a vessel may grow too narrow or connect in the wrong place, causing the blood flow to be interrupted or cause the "red" and "blue" blood to mix, accordingly. (Red blood is full of oxygen, and blue blood is low in oxygen.)

Corbin had many different types of CHD's, all caused by William's Syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the elastic in the heart. There are different genetic conditions that can cause heart defects, like Down Syndrome, DiGeorge Syndrome, Marfan Syndrome, and William's Syndrome. There is also a genetic disorder called Long QT Syndrome that affects the electricity in the heart and can cause death with no warning. It is very important to get yourself checked if you suffer from unexplained fainting and have sudden arrythmias (erratic heart beat). There is a genetic test for Long QT so you should also have your children checked if you suffer from these symptoms.

Some CHD's do not show outward signs and can be missed by a pediatrician. It is important for parents to ask for a pulse ox screen on their baby after birth to help reduce the chances of their baby being sent home undetected. Since 2011, the number of states that now require pulse ox screening has tripled, but in case your state does not require the screening, you can always ask. Visit the "graphics to share" page to find a flier to help you ask!

Visit www.cchdscreeningmap.com to see if your state requires pulse ox. 

Here are the signs of a possible heart defect for you to remember:
-blue extremities like the fingers, toes, nose, hands, and feet, or a blue tint to the fingernails or lips.
-low pulse ox reading (below 95%)
-trouble breathing, shortness of breath, getting tired easily during activity.
-increase in sweat on the back of the head during nursing. This could be a sign the baby cannot breath and eat at the same time. Call a doctor immediately.

Some heart defects are so severe they can cause the child to go into heart failure, here are some of the signs:
-trouble breathing, shortness of breath.
-tiring easily after an activity.
-buildup of fluid inside the chest, or lungs.
-swelling in the legs, ankles, feet, and the veins in the neck.

To learn more about heart defects or how the heart works, visit The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute or The Mayo Clinic. Always use a trusted medical site to reach the most up to date and accurate information.