Q:  Who operates on children with septal defects?

A: A cardio-thoracic surgeon with interest in pediatric cardiac surgery usually operate on the patients.


Q: Who follows up these children?

A: A pediatric cardiologist (physician) follows up the children.

Q: What are holes in the heart?

A: Atrial and ventricular septal defects are the most common forms of congenital heart disease. They are generally called as hole(s) in the heart. A septum is a wall separating the left and right side of the heart. The atrial septum separates the atria or the upper chambers. The ventricular septum separates the ventricles or the lower chambers.

Q: How do they form?

A: There are no definite answers as to why a septal defect was formed. But, studies have shown relationship of genes responsible in the development of the heart is found on chromosome 21. Also half of the patients with Down’s syndrome have septal defects and about 25% of patients with septal defects have Down’s syndrome. Sometimes septal defects can be hereditary or due to environmental causes. There can be children with septal defects without any genetic reasons.

Q: Can pregnant women have chest x-rays?

A: Some doctors believe that no diagnostic X-rays can increase the chances of having a fetus with congenital problems. This risk is reported to as less as one in a million. To be on the safe side, a pregnant woman should postpone her elective X-rays. If it is must then the uterus can be shielded during all X-rays. Risk is high for lower back, abdominal or pelvic x-rays. If possible, these tests should be replaced with a less ionizing radiation test like ultrasound.

Q: Are congenital abnormalities common in babies of women over 40 years of age?

A: Most women over 40 years of age have normal pregnancies. Yet, they are more prone to have babies with congenital defect, mostly relating to chromosomal abnormalities (e.g. Down’s syndrome). There are tests like amniocentesis that can diagnose these conditions prenatally.

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