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Conditions We Treat Part I I: Congenital Heart Diseases

Heart disease is not exclusive to adults; it can also affect children, although in different ways. The difference between adult and pediatric cases is in the underlying cause. For adults, heart disease primarily stems from atherosclerosis, a process where plaque accumulates within the coronary arteries, potentially leading to diminished blood flow and, in severe cases, heart attacks. However, in children, heart disease takes a different form, rarely involving plaque buildup. Instead, it often manifests as defects in the heart's walls and valves, disrupting the normal flow of blood. Unlike adults, who may develop heart disease later in life, children with heart conditions are typically born with these issues, known as congenital heart disease.


Today, we will dive into the intricacies of congenital heart diseases, shedding light on various conditions that impact newborns. These conditions, present at birth, can significantly alter the heart's function, affecting crucial processes such as oxygen and nutrient transport, toxin elimination, and blood pressure regulation. 


Congenital heart diseases encompass a diverse range of conditions, so we’ll only focus on the main ones. By doing so, we can better comprehend the complexities of these conditions and appreciate the significance of the surgeries we sponsor. Join us as we explore the specifics of these conditions and their implications for the affected individuals!


 

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Atrial Septal Defect

What is it? 

An abnormal opening or hole in the atrial septum, which is the wall that separates the two upper chambers of the heart, the right and left atria. This opening allows blood to flow between these chambers, which can lead to certain physiological changes.


How does it change the physiology of the heart? 

An atrial septal defect disrupts the normal separation of the right and left atria. As a result, oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium can mix with oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium, which then gets pumped into the lungs and the body. This can increase the volume of blood that the right atrium and ventricle have to handle.


What are the manifestations? 

While many ASDs are not immediately life-threatening, they can lead to complications over time, including an increased risk of developing pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs). This, in turn, can strain the right side of the heart and potentially lead to heart failure.


What are the treatment options? 

The choice of treatment depends on factors such as the size and location of the defect, the patient's age, and overall health. Early intervention is often recommended to prevent potential complications from worsening. Procedures to correct ASD include: 


Catheter-based Closure: In this minimally invasive procedure, a catheter is inserted through a blood vessel and guided to the heart. An ASD closure device is then placed to cover the hole, allowing tissue to grow over it and effectively close the defect.


Surgical Repair: For larger or more complex ASDs, open-heart surgery might be necessary. During the surgery, the hole is closed using sutures or a patch.

Coarctation of the Aorta

Pulmonary Atresia

Tetralogy of Fallot

Transposition of the Great Arteries 

Truncus Arteriosis

Ventricular Septal Defect


 


Pictured above is Quynh Anh, a young girl whom Healing Hearts Vietnam recently had the pleasure of sponsoring for surgical repair of an atrial septal defect that caused right heart failure. Since the procedure, she has done very well and is feeling much better!


Hopefully, this article can act as a good resource for better understanding the intricacies of congenital heart conditions like Quynh Anh's. We will be updating you soon with the next part of our series!


It is your contributions that allow us to continue sponsoring economically disadvantaged families in need of life-saving cardiovascular surgery. Thank you for your continued support in helping us work towards our mission!



Best,

Aaron


 

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