A paediatric cardiologist is a doctor that specialises in the diagnosis and treatment of heart conditions in children under the age of 18 years, including infants. Heart issues in children can occur due to various reasons, including:
- Birth defects
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Improper growth in the mother’s womb
- Smoking and consumption of alcohol by the mother during pregnancy
- Lack of proper nutrition by the mother during pregnancy
- Trauma, injury or stress faced by the mother during pregnancy
Most of the problems in children develop when they are in the uterus. However, some issues occur due to specific illnesses that occur during childhood. Cardiac issues in children need to medically treated by a paediatric cardiologist.
A paediatric cardiologist holistically treats heart problems in children of all ages. A paediatric cardiologist can provide care for patients through various stages including pregnancy, infancy, childhood, teenage, and later years. Paediatric cardiologists obtain specialised training since children require more effective and attentive care as compared to adults.
A paediatric cardiologist is also primarily trained in general cardiologist and then goes on to further get expertise in treating heart problems specifically in children. A paediatric cardiologist provides all-round care for the healthy growth and development of a child. Paediatric cardiology involves treating minor issues such as irregular heartbeat and rhythm, as well as complicated matters of the circulatory function issues. Moreover, paediatric cardiologists are trained specially to provide comprehensive care to the child in the best possible manner. Essentially, paediatric cardiology is a branch of general cardiology, which focuses on the diagnosis, prevention and treatment of heart problems and defects in children.
Symptoms of heart issues in children
Children are different from adults and hence, the symptoms in both differ. A child needs to be treated by a paediatric cardiologist if he/she displays any of the below symptoms:
- Blue lips and skin
- Difficulty in feeding (sweating, breathlessness, etc.)
- Shortness of breath
- Poor growth
- Pale skin
- Weak immunity
- Heart murmur
- Lack of physical activeness
- Chest pain
The above symptoms could indicate a potential heart issue in children and hence, should be given immediate medical attention. Paediatric cardiologists work closely with cardiothoracic surgeons, paediatricians focussed on other specialities, as well as specialised nurses and staff to provide superior, patient-centric and family-oriented care for children.
Conditions treated by a paediatric cardiologist
A paediatric cardiologist can treat all conditions related to the heart of children. Some of the most common issues treated by paediatric cardiologists include:
- Infancy cardiovascular collapse
- Cardiac failure
- Newborn cyanosis
- Heart murmurs
- Chest pain, palpitations
- Fatigue and fainting
- Congenital heart problem
- Cardiovascular defects
- Cardiac abnormalities
- Heart transplant
- Aortic valve stenosis
- Arterial trunk
- Atrial septal defect (ASD)
A paediatric cardiologist makes a general physical exam and then conducts various other medical tests including imaging tests (X-rays, ultrasound, MRI, CT scan, etc.), blood tests, and others. But the treatment of a particular issue depends on the type of problem, age of the child, medical history, family history, general health of the child and the severity of the condition.
That said, in terms of treating a condition, the approach adopted by a paediatric cardiologist is similar to that of a general cardiologist. However, the former is more intensive and precise in handling the child. In general heart surgery, the paediatric cardiologist opens the chest cavity of the patient and divides the chest bone to access the heart. During this time, the heart of the patient is connected to a heart-lung bypass machine, which substitutes the functioning of the heart, allowing the cardiologist time to perform the surgery with utmost precision. Once the issue is treated, the cardiologist seals the chest incision with sternal wires. These wires are used to bind the separated chest wall and eventually dissolve on their own. The staples used are removed after 7-14 days and the glue wears off on its own. Overall, the recovery usually takes 6-8 weeks. This is an open-heart surgery, which is performed by a paediatric cardiologist to treat various conditions. However, the applicability of this procedure is only in extremely severe cases, when other non-invasive and minimally invasive forms of treatment fail to provide any result.
The main difference between a general cardiologist and paediatric cardiologist are the types of problem, the intricacy of the surgery, and the approach or procedure of the surgery. That said, in many cases, minor heart issues in children tend to resolve on their own or with some minimum treatment administered by a qualified paediatric cardiologist. In case of slightly major issues, medications or minimally-invasive forms of treatment can be used by the paediatric cardiologist. However, for intense and critical cases, the paediatric cardiologist will perform invasive surgical procedures to treat the issue. But it is very important to take proper consultation and understand the issue of the child and the best treatment possible. It is very critical to select a qualified and attentive paediatric cardiologist that can provide superior care and treatment to the child.