Heart defects: how to recognize in time?
One of the frequent problems that occurs in newborn babies are heart defects. These developmental disorders need to be diagnosed and treated on time. About how often the diagnosis of heart disease is diagnosed, why such violations occur and when a prospective mother should be examined, said Professor Philip Genty, head of the ultrasound diagnostic section of the Center for Fetal Medicine in Nashville, USA, Philips clinical consultant on ultrasound, international expert on fetal echocardiography.
How often do children develop heart disease? Are there statistics on different countries and specifically on Russia?
In different studies, the incidence of heart disease varies from 4 to 50 cases per thousand live births. The frequency of the most common varieties of ischemic heart disease also differs greatly from research to study. This is partly due to differences in the diagnosis of newborns, in part – local variability. Severe pathologies occur on average in six cases out of a thousand. Unfortunately, I do not have full information about the statistics of diseases in Russia, so I can not provide accurate data. However, I managed to notice that the statistics on heart diseases in different countries are approximately the same, but there is a rather noticeable difference in the diagnosis and detection of such pathologies. For example, in the US, Canada and other countries, such studies are carried out by narrow specialists in the field of ultrasound sonography. In Russia the situation is different. Here such diagnostics are carried out by the attending physicians.
In Russia, in my opinion, the development of heart disease can be affected by ecology: in people who live in ecologically unfavorable regions, the risk of heart disease is usually higher than that of people living in a more natural environment.
At what stage of pregnancy is the examination conducted?
Usually, such a survey is conducted from 18 to 22 weeks. To date, there have been some successes in the development of innovative ultrasound equipment, which, we hope, will allow for fetal echocardiography at earlier times. However, the decision on further action in case of pathology is still usually taken during the second trimester. We must understand that at earlier times the heart of the fetus is so small that it is sometimes very difficult to conduct an accurate diagnosis. In addition, some heart defects are fully manifested and can be seen only after the first trimester.
What can provoke the developmental defect of the heart – bad ecology, heredity, some other factors? And how can it be prevented?
All these factors can play a role. If one of the children has already affected the disease, the mother should be examined more carefully in subsequent pregnancies. Also, more attention is required by future mothers with their own cardiac diseases. There are many reasons that can lead to the development of heart defects in the child. Among them – the use of alcohol or drugs during pregnancy, as well as smoking. Of course, there are many concomitant factors besides smoking that contribute to the formation of cardiac pathologies, and this habit itself is not the main cause of the development of the disease. In addition to the recommendation to abandon bad habits, I also advise you to turn to heredity, so that in case of detection of pathologies, relatives could understand what to pay special attention to during pregnancy.
Are there any indications that a woman carrying a baby needs to undergo such examination (for example, if she herself has heart problems)?
Certainly. I think every woman should undergo screening at 18-22 weeks of pregnancy. At least, it will avoid surprises at the birth of the child. Not every anomaly can be diagnosed, but the most dangerous of them will be detected. Especially it is necessary to be checked up by those future mothers who have heart diseases. Of course, this does not mean that if a woman has heart pathologies, she will certainly give birth to a child with similar problems, but such a risk, unfortunately, exists. That is why diagnosis in the early stages of pregnancy will never be unnecessary. In some cases, the child’s ultrasound is simply necessary. For example, if a woman had a miscarriage earlier. In addition, doctors often carry out such diagnostics if the woman was ill during pregnancy, took antibiotics and other drugs.