Congenital heart disease (CHD) — also called congenital heart defect — is one of the most common types of birth defects, affecting nearly 40,000 births in the United States each year, according to U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
A CHD diagnosis can be scary for any parent. Treatment for this condition is improving every year, however. By taking the right precautions and getting the right care across their lifespan, these patients can hope to live long and happy lives.
Some important continuous care includes:
Often children with CHD will require regular check-ins with their doctor. During these exams, they will undergo various tests, including electrocardiograms, chest x-rays, echocardiograms, exercise stress tests, CT heart screenings, and cardiac catheterization and angiography.
Patients born with CHD are often underweight and lack all the nutrition they need to maintain their energy. That makes a diet and nutrition plan an important part of the treatment plan.
Often an individual with CHD will require medication, perhaps for the rest of their life. These medications can help make the heart stronger or lower blood pressure.
Most patients with CHD will benefit from physical activity and exercise, according to the Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. Children with CHD should avoid a sedentary lifestyle, obesity, and hypertension.
You will need to consult your physician about immunizations, but for the most part, children with CHD should still receive their standard immunizations as they develop. In fact, according to the American Heart Association, your child may need additional immunizations, such as a monthly immunization for the cold virus during the winter months.
As your child begins to transition to adulthood, they will need a thorough understanding of their disease and what it will take to care for themselves and prolong their life. They also need an understanding of what risks could affect their health, including substance abuse. The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics also recommends talking to them about what it takes to be an advocate for the health while giving them increasing responsibility for managing and making decisions for their care.
The right combination of care will vary from individual to individual based on the type of defect they are struggling with, the procedures they have had performed, the medication they are taking and other medical care they are undergoing. Your primary care physician and medical team can help you create the care plan that is right for your child.