Symptoms of Congenital Heart Defects

And Diagnostic Tools

Physicians may detect congenital heart defects even before delivery. Some may be detected at birth or early in life, while others may remain undetected until adulthood. These are the common symptoms of congenital heart defects when most serious, including:

  • Tachypnea (rapid breathing)
  •  Cyanosis (bluish hue of skin, lips and fingernails)
  •  Periorbital swelling (puffy eyelids)
  •  Swelling of extremities (swollen arms and legs)
  •  Shortness of breath during feeding
  •  Failure to gain substantial weight
  •  Easily fatigued
  •  Signs of congestion (possible build up of fluids in lungs and heart)
  •  Edema (swelling of hands, feet and ankles)

Diagnosis of Congenital Heart Defects

Children with Congenital heart defects may be visiting their pediatric cardiologist as often as possible. The following options may be used for the diagnosis.

Thorough History Intake and Physical Examination will be taken to support the goal of an accurate diagnosis.

Electrocardiography (ECG/EKG) – The procedure involving the placing of an electrode on the body and determines the polarity of heart’s discharges. Physicians may determine the speed of the heart, rhythm and the timing of impulse as it passes through the different parts of the heart.

Echocardiography – Utilizes sound waves to elucidate the image of the heart real time. It can show the size and the shape of the heart, the conditions of the valves, the integrity of the septum (walls), ejection speed of the blood flow, defective placement of vessels and more.  

Chest X-Ray – Chest X-rays uses ionizing radiation to take pictures of the inside of the lungs. It can reveal enlargement of the heart, deviation from normal anatomy of the heart and great vessels and the accumulation of fluid in the chest and heart cavity.

 Computed Tomography (CT) – This will involve several x-ray shots to view the heart and lungs in all angles to help expose the defect.

Holter Monitor – A Holter is a portable device attached to the heart that monitors 24 hours of heart rhythm. This enables the cardiologist to pinpoint periods of dangerous rhythm in specific times of the day that may be missed by the ECG. 

Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) –Cardiac MRI utilizes magnet, radio waves and a computer to diagnose defects of the heart. MRI can give three dimensional imaging, either static or moving. A Cardiologist can easily see the behavior of the heart’s tissues during the actual beating. This aids a Cardiologist in identifying the physician’s preferred treatment plan.

Pulse Oximetry –This device, known as a pulse oximeter, is placed on the finger to determine the percentage amount of oxygen carried by the blood from the heart, known as oxygen saturation. Cardiologists may predict the efficiency of the heart and lungs to saturate the blood with adequate oxygen.

Cardiac Catheterization – This is an invasive procedure whereby a flexible plastic tube is inserted in a big vessel of the thigh, arm or neck, and threaded to the heart. Dyes may be injected in certain areas for clearer x-ray shots; this is known as cardiac angiography.

Other Possible Conditions?

It should be emphasized that children with CHD are unable to do strenuous activities compared to normal kids. Certain behavioral problems like short attention span and easy irritability may be likely to be encountered. The child and parents must understand that heart murmurs typically exist with CHD.

Next Visit, Treatment for Congenital Heart Defects

It is important to recognize that medications and medical procedures are associated with benefits and risks that should be discussed with your physician. It is important to recognize that all information contained on this website cannot be considered to be specific medical diagnosis, medical treatment, or medical advice. As always, you should consult with a physician regarding any medical condition.
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