Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect worldwide. It causes changes to the heart’s structure and can affect the walls, the valves or the blood vessels of the heart.
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The specific kind of defect will also determine the exact kind of surgery you or your child will undergo. The three common types of defects are:
Ventral and Atrial septal defect: Holes found between the lower chambers (ventricles) or the upper chambers (atriums) of the heart leads to a ventral and atrial septal defect respectively. The surgeon will treat this defect by patching or stitching the hole. This can be done through a routine open-heart surgery. There is also the option of carrying this surgery out by inserting a catheter through a vein in your groin with a small device attached to it. This device then clamps the hole, and the defect is repaired.
Tetralogy of Fallot: This defect is seen immediately after the birth of a child or during the early months of life. It involves 4 defects in the heart and can cause cyanosis (bluish tinge to the skin). The defect can be treated temporarily in very young babies by placing a shunt in the heart so that blood can reach the lungs. Later on, a permanent treatment surgery is done. This is also an open-heart surgery, and involves patching up holes, removing obstructive heart muscles and repositioning some vital blood vessels to get the correct blood flow.
Pulmonary valve stenosis: This is caused by an obstruction to the blood flow from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery caused by a narrowing of the valve. This can be repaired using a balloon valvuloplasty or an open heart surgery depending on the complexity of the defect.
The surgeries are usually performed under general anaesthesia, and patients will be attached to a heart-lung machine through the duration of an open-heart surgery.
Congenital heart defect surgeries can range from routine defects to very complex, life threatening defects. The duration of your surgery, as well as the recovery time will depend on this. There is considerable rehab as well as pharmacological interventions that you will have to follow after your surgery. These treatments will vary from patient to patient, and it is best to have a thorough discussion with your doctor beforehand. Lastly, make sure to ask for support or help, as and when needed.