Four children with Down's syndrome in the age group of nine months to four years were operated for heart ailments at the Government Children's Hospital, Egmore in the last three months. With this, the hospital has treated 50 such children in the last four years for cardiac problems.
P. Moorthy, cardiac surgeon, who led the team including anaesthetist T. Murugan, which conducted the surgeries, says it was a challenge that the hospital was willing to take up. The children were screened for neurological problems. “A child which did not have neurological deficits would have no difficulty recovering post-surgery. We sent children with Down's syndrome to the Neurology department for evaluation,” he said.
“We also do the test for thyroid deficiency,” Dr. Moorthy said. “These children had simple cardiac problems which, if treated, will prolong their life.”
About 40 per cent of such children have cardiac problems and if they are not treated, will not survive beyond 10 years of age. The lifespan of such children is now 50 years. Despite their low IQ with training they can be independent and live a useful life, according to Dr. Moorthy.
Consultant neurologist S. Velusamy who conducts the neurological tests said, “We test for genetic, neurological and cardiac fitness before we clear them for surgeries.”
Last year, the hospital admitted 137 children with Down's syndrome as in patients in various departments for treatment. Every year the hospital screens 25 to 30 children for cardiac problems alone.
Data in developed countries have established that one in 750 live births could present with Down's syndrome. Women who have children in the late 40s and smoking and drinking by parents are contributing factors. But in India the numbers are far higher as the mother's poor nutritional level and her chances of acquiring viral infections are high, Dr. Velusamy said.
Blood screening test to rule out the genetic disorder and the confirmatory test for high risk mothers should be made mandatory, he said.