From an interview with
Dr. David Steflik
McLeod Pediatric Cardiology
A heart defect is a problem in the heart’s structure, and children who have a heart defect are born with it. Heart defects are often called “congenital,” which means “present at birth.” Heart defects are also sometimes referred to as “congenital heart disease.” Conditions can range from mild to severe, according to McLeod Pediatric Cardiologist Dr. David Steflik.
“There are four major valves in the heart: the mitral valve, the tricuspid valve, the aortic valve and the pulmonary valve. There can be abnormalities in every heart valve, which is why in every murmur evaluation, we look at each valve closely and determine not only if it developed normally, but how it works.
Pediatric patients are certainly a unique patient population. The most common valve problem we see that babies are born with is a bicuspid aortic valve. When the aortic valve is formed, it typically has three leaflets. But instead of having three, these children are born with only two leaflets. They are sometimes diagnosed later in life because they may not have a heart murmur right away.
Those bicuspid aortic valves that are formed abnormally are more likely to develop narrowing, which we call stenosis, or leakage, and we call that insufficiency. There are other issues that go along with that. The aorta, which is right next to that, is likely to become enlarged.
In a baby with a bad heart problem, they are going to exhibit signs of heart failure, which would be breathing fast and not gaining weight. Older children and young adults can tell us they’re having symptoms, which would be chest pain, etc. Babies can exhibit chest pain as irritability, so we also pay attention to a very irritable baby. It they have a murmur that is indicative of a heart issue, we take note of that because it’s possible the valve is causing problems. That’s how we would look at signs or symptoms of babies or young adults with valve problems.
So how we would treat stenosis – that narrowing of the aortic valve or pulmonary valve – would be what we call balloon valvuloplasty. The patient would be under general anesthesia, and via this procedure, we would simply tear the valve open using a balloon interventionally without having to perform heart surgery.”
To learn more, speak with a pediatric cardiologist near you.