Birth defects affecting the heart muscle are a challenge to expectant parents, since the severity, the manifestation, and also prognosis usually is not known until the child is born.
Similarly, some heart related birth defects are hereditary while others are linked to other birth defects and may actually only be secondary in nature to the first, and more serious, birth defects. In the majority of the cases, however, it appears that heart defects are directly due to a preventable event, such as the use of Accutane or alcohol consumption of the mother.
To further understand the possible birth defects affecting the heart muscle, here is a brief synopsis of the most commonly presented ones:
Some infants will present with heart muscles that have insufficiently operating heart valves. In some cases these valves do not close as indicated while in other cases they are blocked or so narrowed that a steady blood flow is not possible to maintain. The good news is that this kind of heart related birth defect is easily fixed by an experienced surgeon and the prognosis for these infants is very good.
A group of malformations of the left ventricle is known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome and is a dangerous condition. In some cases the child may die, simply because the hearts left ventricle is too undersized to undertake the rigorous task of unceasing blood pumping. There are surgical techniques that have been successfully used to correct this situation and in severe cases a heart transplant may be indicated.
Known as septal defect, this benign birth defect is characterized by the presence of one or more holes in the wall that subdivides the left and right sides of the heart. In the most benign cases, this birth defect will self correct while in the more severe cases, or cases where the heart is working too intensely to await a self correction, a surgeon will be able to simply apply an artificial wall.
A birth defect which always requires surgery is the tetralogy of Fallot which is a group of heart related birth defects that always present together and will prevent proper oxygenation of the blood as well as that bloods traveling to the organs. While it is possible for a child to survive this birth defect for a short period of time, surgery is required to ensure long term survival.
Your doctor will carefully monitor your fetus heartbeat and ascertain whether it is beating normally for its gestational age, or whether it is beating irregularly. In many cases the fetus can be treated via the mother with medication which will protect the heart and permit the child to grow to term so that she or he may undergo surgery in some cases almost immediately following birth.
While in the past the presence of birth defects affecting the heart muscle were almost always death sentences, the advances of medical science has changed this and the survival rate as well as the long term outlook for children suffering from such abnormalities are better than ever!