What is CHD

Congenital Heart Disease: what it is and how we fight it?

The term 'congenital heart disease' refers to a structural abnormality of the heart that is present from birth. There is no definite cause for most of these but in certain instances could be due to a genetic defect, maternal infection such as rubella or the introduction of toxins such as alcohol or drugs. In some cases, depending on the type of defect, the newborn child may be seriously ill at birth. With other cases, the symptoms and signs of heart disease appear later in life. The most common symptoms are difficulty in breathing and/or feeding, recurrent respiratory tract infections, failure to grow and, in some babies, bluish discolouration of the lips, tongue and nails.

Congenital heart diseases can be basically categorised in to Cyanotic (those who become blue due to the heart disease) and Acyanotic (those who remain pink even in the presence of a heart disease) lesions. Simple holes in the heart, narrowing of heart valves or incompetence of heart valves fall under Acyanotic category. More complex lesions where there are combinations of holes and narrow valves or underdeveloped cardiac chambers fall under Cyanotic lesions. Not all acyanotic lesions need intervention, but almost all cyanotic lesions will need some form of corrective surgery.

Accurate diagnosis, decision on timing and mode of intervention are of paramount importance in management of Congenital Heart Disease. Prompt diagnosis by clinical examination, electrocardiography, chest X-ray and echocardiography is the first step in the effective management of congenital heart disease. Once a precise anatomical and functional diagnosis is made, the next step is to decide on the mode and timing of intervention depending on the type and severity of the defect. Mode of intervention could be either a catheter based intervention, surgical intervention or medical management. Not all lesions need intervention or surgery as minor lesions like small holes in the heart and mild narrowing or incompetence of valves, which will not affect the patient's day to day life, can be left alone.

With modern diagnostic, interventional and surgical techniques over 90 percent of these congenital heart defects can be effectively treated, allowing the child to lead a near normal life.