One of every 100 babies born has congenital heart disease (CHD) and it is one of the most common of all birth defects. “Three-quarters of all CHD problems can be corrected through surgery and babies with heart defects can go on to become adults living active, productive lives,” said Dr Muneer Amanullah, Consultant Paediatric Cardiac Surgeon at Aga Khan University Hospital (AKUH). CHD surgeries have a high success rate and the risk factor is between five and 10 per cent. He was speaking at a seminar to raise awareness of the treatment options available for babies with CHD at the Aga Khan University auditorium on May 15.
A congenital heart defect may be so slight that the baby appears healthy for many years after birth, or severe enough that the newborn’s life is in immediate danger. The earlier a baby or child suspected of having a heart defect is diagnosed, the better the outcome. Some defects such as holes and ‘tight’ valves can be successfully treated without surgery. But for children who do require surgery, surgical repair is carried out in the first months of their lives, preventing the development of additional complications. Dr Amanullah mentioned that only 10 per cent of the children on whom surgery has been performed will need another low-risk procedure when they grow up. If children with CHD are not treated, they remain unwell, underdeveloped, and have to make repeated hospital visits. The University Hospital has a dedicated unit for congenital heart defects that includes paediatric cardiac anaesthetists, cardiologists, intensivist, surgeons, cardiac perfusionists (who operate the heart and lung machine during surgery) and physiotherapists, as well as specially trained nurses.
Dr Mehnaz Atiq, Consultant Paediatric Cardiologist at AKUH said that most defects require simple, low-risk surgeries; however, some defects are more severe and difficult to treat, increasing risks. She presented an overview of different types of defects and strategies for their treatment, for example those required within the first few months of birth or within the first year. Dr Atiq mentioned that a range of non-surgical and surgical treatments are available in Pakistan.
The programme concluded with a question and answer session.
Department of Public Affairs
Aga Khan University
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