Your heart is the hardest-working organ in your body. Keeping your heart healthy is the foundation for a healthy life.
At Stormont Vail Health, our young heart patients — those under age 20 — work with a pediatric heart care team that’s specially trained in treating the unique needs of children. We also provide supportive services such as nutritional counseling or financial assistance to patients and their families.
We recommend that all children receiving cardiac care continue to see their pediatricians. The pediatrician can provide primary care services — such as annual physicals, immunizations and well-child visits — to make sure that your child’s entire body remains healthy.
Conditions We Treat
Most of our pediatric heart patients have a congenital heart defect (CHD), meaning they were born with a condition affecting their heart. While there are many different types of CHD, we most commonly manage:
Aortic StenosisThe opening to the aortic valve — the vessel that brings oxygenated blood from the heart to the body — narrows, restricting blood flow.
Coarctation of the AortaThe aorta narrows, forcing the heart to pump harder in order to force blood through the narrowed vessel.
Ventricular Septal DefectThere is a hole in the wall that separates the bottom two chambers of the heart. This causes blood with oxygen to mix with blood without oxygen.
Atrial Septal DefectThis is similar to the ventricular septal defect. However, the hole is in the wall that separates the two upper chambers of the heart.
Hypertrophic CardiomyopathyThe heart muscle thickens, becoming stiff and less efficient. The amount of blood being pumped out of the heart is decreased, and the blood can back up into the lungs.
Patent Ductus ArteriosusBefore birth, a blood vessel called the ductus arteriosus connects two major arteries. After birth, it is supposed to close up. Patent ductus arteriosus occurs when the vessel remains open, causing blood with oxygen to mix with blood without oxygen. This can increase blood pressure in the lung arteries and put a strain on the heart.
Heart MurmursAbnormal sounds between heartbeats. Many murmurs are harmless. However, we monitor them because in some patients, a murmur can be the first sign of a serious heart disease.
Tetralogy of FallotChildren with Tetralogy of Fallot have at least three of these four heart problems:
- Ventricular Septal Defect: There is a hole in the wall that separates the bottom two chambers of the heart. This causes blood with oxygen to mix with blood without oxygen.
- Pulmonary Stenosis: The pulmonary valve narrows, restricting blood flow to the lungs and causing the lungs to not get enough oxygen.
- Right Ventricular Heart Failure: The right ventricle does not pump well, causing a backup of blood in the veins. This leads to swelling in the legs, ankles and within the abdomen. It eventually causes left-sided failure, leading to a backup of blood in the lungs.
- Overriding Aorta: Both ventricles put blood into the aorta, causing the body to not have enough oxygen.
Our Treatments & Services
When children are first being diagnosed, or when we need to monitor their heart condition, we may use one of these screening and monitoring tests:
How Do We Screen and Monitor Heart Function?
- Echocardiogram (ECHO): An ECHO test uses sound waves to create images of your child’s heart. It allows us to look at the inside of the heart in detail, examine the structures of the heart and find defects.
- Stress tests: During a stress test, we monitor your child’s heart rhythm, blood pressure and breathing while they exercise. Since exercise makes the heart pump faster and harder, a stress test can show problems with blood flow to the heart.
- Holter monitors: Children with abnormal heartbeats may wear a small, portable monitor for 24 to 48 hours that records heart activity. While ECHO tests and stress tests only measure the heart’s activity at one point in the day, a Holter monitors allow us to see how the heart works throughout the entire day.
Once we’ve diagnosed the heart problem, we create a treatment plan that’s individually tailored for your child’s personal needs. Treatment comes in many different forms, from simple monitoring, to daily medication, to a procedure to correct a defect.