Each year, one million babies across the world are born with congenital heart diseases. There are over 200 congenital heart diseases, among which developmental disorders of the ventricles and auricles, holes in the chambers of the heart and cardiac valve disorders are prominent. However, there is news which put the mind at ease: Owing to current developments in diagnosis and treatment methods, 9 out of every 10 children can recover and lead a health life. Professor Tayyar Sarıoğlu, head of the Department of Pediatric Heart Surgery at Acıbadem University and chief of the Cardiovascular Surgery Department at Acıbadem Bakırköy Hospital, points out that early diagnosis and appropriate treatment play a key role at this point, and says, “In congenital heart diseases, 30% of the children require treatment within the first month following birth. Therefore, it is crucial for parents to recognize the symptoms of these diseases and consult a doctor without losing time”. The risk is 2 to 3 times higher if the parents suffer from the same condition Professor Tayyar Sarıoğlu states that, in comparison to the normal population, the risk of developing congenital heart diseases is 2 to 3 times higher for babies with a mother or father who has the same condition. In addition to this, the causes for congenital heart diseases include consanguineous marriages, diabetes, severe viral infections a mother goes through during pregnancy and pregnancies that occur after the age of 35, as well as smoking, alcohol intake, use of certain drugs, exposure to x-rays or radiation during pregnancy. Furthermore, the risk of developing these diseases is also higher in babies conceived through in-vitro fertilization and babies with chromosomal anomalies such as Down Syndrome. Do not ever ignore these symptoms 1 out of every 3 babies born with a congenital heart disease develop various symptoms within the first month following birth. Professor Tayyar Sarıoğlu lists the most significant symptoms which should not be ignored under any circumstances as follows:

  • Purple spots on the lips, in the mouth and under the nails of babies,
  • Rapid breathing and depression of ribs during inhalation,
  • Developing respiratory diseases frequently,
  • Unwillingness to nurse or tiring quickly during breastfeeding,
  • Lack of appetite and difficulty in gaining weight,

Tiring quickly. In some children, however, congenital heart disease may not manifest any distinctive symptoms during the first years. In such cases, it is possible for the child to suffer from symptoms such as heart palpitations, shortness of breath, tiring quickly and chest pain during exercise.

The success rate can exceed 90% Professor Tayyar Sarıoğlu points out that the current technological means, knowledge and experience makes it possible for a success rate of over 90% to be achieved in even babies born with the most complex and risk heart diseases. Stating that treatment can be performed even without requiring a heart and lung machine in some cardiac operations (laparoscopic heart surgery), Professor Tayyar Sarıoğlu explains the other methods that are currently applied as follows: “In certain anomalies, it is possible to perform surgery by accessing the heart through small incisions (minimally invasive) on the side of the chest. Such operations can require a much shorter period of hospitalization and recovery. In children with a well-developed ribcage, certain anomalies can be eliminated through robotic surgery as well. In some other cases, it is also possible to perform non-surgical treatments through the use of catheters and methods referred to as interventional procedures. These can be utilized to repair holes in the heart, eliminate narrowness in cardiac valves and veins, close vascular openings and correct abnormal veins, and insert prosthetic heart valves.”

The diseases can even be diagnosed before birth In reality, it is possible to diagnose congenital heart diseases as early as the 16th gestational week through a detailed examination of the baby’s heart while she is still in the womb. If any problems are identified in the heart, the baby is monitored closely until birth and the treatments to be applied after birth are planned in the meantime. Professor Tayyar Sarıoğlu states that the oxygen saturation method is also a significant adjutant diagnosis method for identification of congenital heart diseases during the first month following birth and continues as follows: “It is critically important for the oxygen saturation in each baby to be measured during the first 24 to 48 hours following birth. It is possible to determine oxygen saturation from a finger or toe of the baby via the use of a small probe. If there is a problem in oxygen saturation, the baby’s heart can be examined in detail through the echocardiography method and many congenital heart diseases can be diagnosed.” Sudden deaths in children and teenagers are preventable There can be cases of sudden cardiac arrest and deaths among children during arduous sports activities or exercise, particularly during adolescence and young adulthood. The problem in such cases is generally narrowness of the aorta (main artery) or an anomaly at the originating place of coronary veins. In reality, such anomalies can be successfully eliminated via cardiac surgery. Professor Tayyar Sarıoğlu says, “Therefore, it is very beneficial for children and youths who will engage in arduous sports and sports competitions to undergo a check-up with echocardiography, stress ECG and, if necessary, computed tomography and magnetic resonance imaging tests”.