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Congenital Heart Defect Birth Injuries

Congenital Heart Defects & Birth Defects

Congenital Heart DefectOf all birth defects, Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) are the most common. All such heart defects can in varying degrees affect the flow of blood through the heart as well as throughout the entire body. These heart defects may vary in severity from a mild CHD, such a tiny hole within the heart, to what is referred to as Critical Congenital Heart Disease (or Critical CHD). Health issues that fall under Critical CHD include such defects as:

Although causes of Congenital Heart Defects are mostly unknown, genetic and chromosomal changes, environmental effects, the mother's health, diet, and pre-existing medical conditions such as obesity, diabetes, and smoking may each play some part.

Millions of adults and children live with CHDs in the United States. Many experience little to no problems with everyday life as a result. Others, especially those with Critical CHDs may require immediate corrective surgery in their first year of life or later in life.

In addition, other medical problems such as an increased risk for heart muscle infection (infective endocarditis), heart weakness (cardiomyopathy), or heart beat irregularity (arrhythmias) may develop over time.

Did a Physician Misdiagnose Your Child's Congenital Heart Defect?

In order to prevent the devastating effects of congenital heart defects, the most prominent medical associations recommend an echocardiogram. A pediatric cardiologist should perform this relatively simple procedure that can identify signs of heart defects before a child's birth. Frequently, these severe heart defects are diagnosed as heart murmurs by mistake, preventing the child from receiving immediate care from a trained cardiologist. If a physician fails to order an echocardiogram and a child is born with a congenital heart defect, the doctor in charge may be held liable for medical malpractice.

In order to improve a child's chances of survival, heart surgery will usually be required to address the defect. If surgery is performed too late due to a physician's failure to order an echocardiogram, the afflicted newborn's chances of survival will plummet. Even if the child does survive, he or she could be facing a variety of severe medical conditions for the rest of their lives. These medical conditions can be life-threatening, expensive, painful, and emotionally damaging.

Certain congenital heart defects, in particular, ventricular septal defects, require immediate medical attention. Many of these defects can lead to severely damaging and potentially lethal medical conditions, such as pulmonary hypertension. Research even shows that even if a child does survive their infant years with such a condition, he or she will have a significantly lower life expectancy than healthy peers.

Conditions Caused by Congenital Heart Defects

Pulmonary Hypertension

Pulmonary hypertension is a condition that occurs when the lungs have difficulty circulating blood. When the blood builds up in the lungs, high blood pressure (hypertension) occurs and leads to a variety of other health conditions. To compensate for this lack of blood flow in the lungs, the heart is forced to work harder to circulate blood. As the blood vessels in the lungs become increasingly thick and narrow, patients may suffer from shortness of breath, disorientation, and constant fatigue.

Irregular Heartbeat (Arrhythmia)

Congenital heart defects, which alter the structure of the heart, can cause patients to develop an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). The heart is composed of various chambers, and if a chamber is damaged (ex: a hole is present), the heart will have difficulty maintaining its normal rhythm. Since heartbeat regulates blood and oxygen flow, numerous respiratory and circulatory issues can arise. There are two most common types of arrhythmia which are:

  • Bradycardia occurs when the heart beats slower than normal.
  • Tachycardia occurs when the heart beats quicker than normal.

For some patients, prescription medications can greatly improve this condition. For less fortunate patients, invasive heart surgeries will be needed.

Infective Endocarditis

Children with congenital heart defects are at an increased risk of developing infective endocarditis. This condition causes bacteria to enter various parts of the body, including heart valves, the bloodstream, and blood vessels. For some patients, antibiotics provide relief.

Congestive Heart Failure

Congestive heart failure occurs when the heart cannot pump a sufficient amount of blood throughout the body. This condition usually happens when the heart weakens, and it can cause every organ in the body to suffer from blood deprivation. When the kidneys are deprived of blood, they are unable to filter their normal amount of fluid, and the excess fluid accumulates throughout the body, causing noticeable swelling. It can also cause fatigue and shortness of breath.

What Should You Do if Your Child Suffers From a Congenital Heart Defect?

If your son or daughter was accidentally diagnosed with a heart murmur, but in reality, they were suffering from a congenital heart defect, you may have a case. If you believe that your child's heart defect was diagnosed too late, contact the Chicago birth defect lawyers at Mitchell S. Sexner & Associates, LLC at (800) 996-4824.

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