Pediatric cardiology is a specialized medical branch that involves studying, diagnosing and treating heart problems in children below the age of 18. Children can get heart problems due to multiple reasons, some of which include:
- Birth defects
- Improper growth
- Unhealthy lifestyle
- Smoking and alcohol consumption during pregnancy by the mother
- Lack of proper diet during pregnancy by the mother
- Trauma faced by the mother during pregnancy and others
In most cases, heart problems occur in children when they are in the uterus. In other cases, the problems are mostly caused due to certain illnesses that occur during childhood. These conditions can worsen with time provided medical care is not sought timely from a qualified pediatric cardiologist.
Scope of pediatric cardiology
Pediatric cardiology offers a comprehensive treatment of heart conditions for children below the age of 18 years. The specialist involves providing care through multiple stages, including pregnancy, childbirth, infancy, childhood, teenage years, and later. The scope involves curing cardiac ailments that are congenital or acquired.
Because children require more attentive and sympathetic care, pediatric cardiology involves specialized and focused methods. Moreover, a pediatric cardiologist is also required to obtain a general understanding of overall pediatrics to be able to provide holistic care for the child. It includes treating conditions ranging from mild to severe in intensity, such as irregular heartbeat and rhythm, as well as circulatory function problems. Additionally, pediatric cardiology comprises of effective handling and caring for children overall.
In many cases, children suffering from heart problems do not have symptoms. However, as these conditions advance with age, the symptoms appear and hence, become critical. As a specialized branch of general cardiology, pediatric cardiology exclusively focuses on children, infants and unborn children with cardiac issues. It includes understanding, identifying, diagnosing, preventing and treating cardiac ailments in children.
Symptoms of heart problems in children
Symptoms of heart issues vary in children based on their age and the type of problem. However, some general symptoms which must be noted and paid heed to immediately, include:
- 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
However, the presence of these symptoms alone does not confirm the presence of a heart problem. The symptoms will need to be examined by a pediatric cardiologist, who will confirm the diagnosis and then initiate the required treatment. Pediatric cardiologists’ also work in sync with other cardiothoracic surgeons, pediatricians focussed on other specialties, and expert nurses and staff to provide all-inclusive, high-quality care to the child.
Conditions treated under pediatric cardiology
A pediatric cardiologist can treat several conditions for patients such as:
- 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)
These heart conditions are first examined by a pediatric cardiologist through general examination and further confirmed with the help of medical tests, including chest X-ray, ECG, ultrasound scan, etc. That said, the treatment for each condition varies per age of the child, the underlying issue, the general health condition, medical history and the severity of symptoms. For minor heart problems, the doctors may recommend medications; while for serious issues surgical intervention may be needed.
The procedure of a pediatric cardiac surgery
Typically, pediatric cardiac surgery is similar to a general cardiac surgery performed on patients above the age of 18 years. However, in the case of a child, the cardiac pediatrician provides a much more focused and attentive care. Moreover, the prime focus in pediatric cardiology is to use a minimally-invasive or non-invasive method to treat the condition. In case, where the two fail to cure the ailment, the other invasive methods are used.
Like a traditional surgery, pediatric cardiac surgery involves making an incision in the chest to divide the chest bone and access the heart directly to cure the issue. In this period, the surgeon connects the heart to a heart-lung bypass machine which temporarily keeps the heart functioning.
After the treatment, the heart is removed from the bypass machine and placed in the body. The surgeon closes the incision and the child is kept under observation for any post-operative infections and to determine if the condition has improved. The recovery can take almost 6-8 weeks, during which the surgeon will prescribe medications and precautions. Eventually, the sterna wires sued to bind the chest bones also dissolve. However, in case of staples, they are removed between 7-14 days post the cardiac surgery, and the glue wears off on its own.
The main distinction between pediatric cardiac surgery and general cardiac surgery is the surgeon and the surgical method. Typically, a pediatric cardiac surgeon has advanced specializations in treating heart conditions of children and infants.
That said, in many cases, heart conditions in children resolve with age. But in many other children, the problems can intensify and cause severe symptoms. Thus, requiring the expertise of a pediatric cardiologist. It is important to take qualified pediatric cardiology consultation to assure the safety and life of the child.