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Heart to heart

Posted Jan 30 2010 5:22pm
Here's a little heart talk for anyone wanting reference :)

I answer heart questions on the RR group pretty frequently and someone tonight asked if I had something written up describing the different heart conditions. Nope... I rewrite it every time!

So here's a little "from a mom's view" (not a doctor!) explanation of the different heart defects that I'm most familiar with!

Please feel free to post any additional information about other heart defects or clarifications in the comments!

My Brianna had an AV Canal and an additional ASD and VSD.
Emma had an AV Canal, a PFO, a PDA, and has PH.

The heart has 4 chambers, two on the left and two on the right. The top two chambers are referred to as the atrium and the bottom as the venricles. The solid wall between the left and right sides is called the septum. A valve on each side of the center wall separates the top and bottom chambers.

An AV Canal (atrioventricular canal) is also called an AVSD (atrioventricular septal defect) or an CAVC (complete atrioventricular canal). This is a combination of multiple defects. It includes a hole between the top two chambers of the heart (atrial) the bottom two chambers of the heart (ventricular) and the septum is the dividing wall. This also affects the valves on each side of the heart and is known as "a hole in the center of the heart".

Emma's AV canal was allowing 40% of her blood that had already been through the lungs to go back through the lungs. This severely overloaded the lungs and caused pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure) to develop over time. That is what PH refers to and she still has this. It will likely never go away since it was untreated for so long.

The ASD that Brianna had was just an additional atrial septal defect which was a hole between the upper chambers of the heart, and the VSD was between the lower chambers, ventricular septal defect.

Emma had a PFO which is also called an 'oval window' in some of the kids listed on RR. Patent Foramen Ovale. Patent means "open" and the Foramen Ovale is an opening that is used while an infant is in utero to bypass the lungs with some of the blood. It generally closes within 48 hours after birth and in 75% of the cases at least by age 3. But still 25% of the adult population (not just Ds, everyone!) has theirs open still and doesn't even know it. Risk factors to having this stay open includes the possibility of blood clots forming in the opening and causing strokes. If a person has a stroke this is one of the things they may check for. If it is found to be open then they may do a cath lab procedure to close it. It may or may not have been the cause of the stroke, but it doesn't hurt to make sure it won't cause the next one!

Emma also had a PDA which is a patent ductus arteriosis. Patent, again, meaning open, and the ductus arteriosis is another opening used in utero. Again, it should close on its own within about 48 hours after birth but can be closed in the cath lab if necessary.

An AV Canal always requires surgery. There is also a "partial" av canal which, depending on its complexity, may or may not require surgery but generally does.

So... that's my kids anyway :)
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