TAMIL NADU

Early screening can help save babies with congenital heart problem

Nalla G. Palaniswami (right), chairman, Kovai Medical Center and Hospital, with baby Aswatha, who underwent an arterial switch procedure, in Coimbatore on Tuesday.— Photo: K. Ananthan

Nalla G. Palaniswami (right), chairman, Kovai Medical Center and Hospital, with baby Aswatha, who underwent an arterial switch procedure, in Coimbatore on Tuesday.— Photo: K. Ananthan  

Twenty-six-day-old Aswatha underwent the arterial switch operation at the Kovai Medical Center and Hospital a few days ago. The girl’s problem was that the good, oxygenated blood that ought to flow out of the left ventricle through the aorta went back to the right atrium to mix with the impure blood.

In effect, the body did not get the oxygenated blood.

The problem does not end there. The child had only one artery as against two and that also goes to the right atrium, the heart chamber where the impure blood flows in. This meant that the baby’s heart too did not get pure blood.

After studying the baby’s condition for over two days, the doctors at the KMCH performed the arterial switch operation, said Dr. Nalla G. Palaniswami, chairman.

But not all children were lucky. Many die within the first few days or weeks of birth because the problem largely went unnoticed and the awareness was not high, said the team of doctors who operated upon the child.

Medical facilities were advanced in that 14 – 16-week foetus could be screened using foetal echo cardiography, said Deva Prasath S., Consultant and Interventional Paediatric Cardiologist, KMCH. But it was impossible to ask all carrying mothers to screen the foetus for the transposition of the great artery.

There were a few broad pointers that could help in this – if the woman was diabetic prior to pregnancy, if the first child had such a condition, if the woman had suffered repeated abortions or if any family members had heart problems.

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