Surgery of congenital heart defects
Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart structure that are present ever since birth. These defects include
- Defects of the inner walls of the heart
- Defects of heart valves
- Defects of the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart and outside the heart, in the body.
Congenital heart defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart. This occurs due to the underdeveloped parts of the heart before birth.
There are many types of congenital heart defects, which can be simple defects with no symptoms to complex defects with severe, life-threatening symptoms. Examples of congenital defects include:
- Atrial septal defect
- Ventricular septal defect
- Pulmonary valve stenosis
- Coarctation of the aorta
- Right ventricular hypertrophy
- Tetralogy Fallot (combination of several defects)
What are the symptoms?
Many congenital defects have only few symptoms or no symptoms at all. However, the symtoms, their manifestation, the type and severity depend on the very gravity of the defects. Severe defects cause signs and symptoms, usually in newborns, and these include:
- Rapid breathing
- Poor circulation
Congenital defects do not cause chest pain or other painful symptoms.
- Physical examination
- X-ray image
- Pulse oximetry
- Cardiac catheterization
Although some congenital heart defects do not need to be treated, there are some where treatment is necessary. Depending on the severity, the complexity and the type of the very defect, it can be treated with a catheterization procedure (interventionally) or with an open-heart surgery. There are also defects whose treatment is a combination of both types of treatment due to the complexity of the defect.
Open heart surgery is recommended in cases when the defect cannot be treated with an interventional procedure. Open heart surgery is used for the following:
- Closing the gaps between the ventricles and the atria with patch plasty
- Reconstruction or replacement of the heart valves
- Opening of the arteries or the openings of the heart valves
- Reconstruction of complex defects that include problems with blood vessels near the heart (underdeveloped or placed in the wrong location)
- You will get medication that will help you sleep and will relieve your pain.
- The doctor makes an incision on your chest.
- After the surgery you will be accommodated at the intensive care unit.
- You will have a tube in the mouth and the throat which will help you breathe. It is not comfortable and you won’t be able to speak, however the nurses will help you to communicate.
- The breathing tube will stay until you can breathe independently – for a few hours.
- You will be connected to machines that monitor you heart rate and the blood pressure during the first 12 to 24 hours.
- After the intensive care, you will be accommodated in a department room.
- You will feel exhausted, with pain due to the incision.
- You will need to breathe deeply and cough hard in order to clean your lungs from liquids.
- You will be given medications.
- For day-two you will be able to sit and to start walking around.
- You can eat normally, however there may be restrictions for the intake of salt.
- You will feel slightly better and stronger every day.
- HOW CAN I FIND OUT MORE?
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