How is a Congenital Heart Defect Diagnosed?

Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect amongst newborns. Sometimes it is found during pregnancy, but other times the diagnosis doesn’t come until after the child is born. There’s a lot of testing that can help diagnose this condition, as well, and there are some other factors that can help confirm the diagnosis, as well. Here are some of the ways CHD is diagnosed. 

Early Diagnosis During Pregnancy

CHD can potentially be suspected as early as a routine ultrasound while the mother is pregnant. If that’s the case, an ultrasound scan called foetal echocardiography will be performed somewhere around 20 weeks of pregnancy to try and confirm the diagnosis. Echocardiography uses high-frequency sound waves to try and create an image of the heart.

However, this isn’t a 100 percent definitive test. Even foetal echocardiography doesn’t detect every heart defect, particularly if they’re mild. Even if it isn’t detected in a routine ultrasound, the echocardiography will be carried out if there is an increased risk for heart defects, or if there is a family history of heart disease.

Diagnosis After the Child is Born

A baby’s heart is checked out as part of the routine physical exam given to newborns. By listening to their heart and checking the pulse, things like heart murmurs can be detected. There are also certain warning signs that can help point towards a CHD diagnosis right after the baby is born. If symptoms are present like rapid breathing, shortness of breath, or a blue tinge to the skin, it could lead to a CHD diagnosis.

Not all of these symptoms will be apparent right away. Many children don’t get diagnosed until months or years have passed. Everyone is different, and conditions like CHD can show up at different times and in different ways. That’s why there’s a battery of other testing methods doctors can use. If your child shows any symptoms of CHD, check with your general practitioner to confirm a diagnosis.

Other Testing Options

It’s important to remember that not all heart defects show up the same way, and there’s not a blanket test to perform to pick all of them up. Further testing can confirm that diagnosis, such as the echocardiography mentioned earlier. This test checks the inside of the heart. Another popular test is an electrocardiogram (ECG), which measures the heart’s electrical activity, which shows how well the heart is beating. 

Doctors will also perform chest x-rays to find out if the heart is larger than normal, or if there’s excess blood in the lungs. They can also check the amount of oxygen in the child’s bloodstream. All of these can be indicators of heart disease, but those symptoms don’t pop up on the same timeline for everyone. It’s important to continue with regular check-ups, and move forward with these other testing options as symptoms reveal themselves. 

Having a child with a heart condition isn’t easy, no matter the severity of the diagnosis. It’s important to have all of the information available at your disposal, and there are plenty of avenues of support. For more information on CHD diagnoses and how to find that support, contact the experts at Conquering CHD today.

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