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Overview of Heart Failure in Children | Cardiology

What is heart failure in children?

The most common cause of heart failure in children is congestive heart failure, in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the needs of the body’s organs. The heart continues to pump, but not as efficiently as a healthy heart. In general, heart failure reflects a progressive underlying heart condition.

For a child to grow and develop, the heart needs to maintain a normal pumping function, providing adequate blood flow throughout the body. However, sometimes a child’s heart may not function normally. The term “cardiac arrest” describes a dysfunctional heart. This does not mean that the heart has stopped working, but that it is not working.

Heart failure in children is caused by smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, coronary artery disease, and faulty heart valves. It can occur in newborns, young children, young children, and adolescents for other reasons. Because heart failure has different causes and outcomes, it is important to identify how it is diagnosed, treated, and cured in young children.

How is heart failure in children identified?

Heart failure in children is often accompanied by shortness of breath, poor diet, poor growth, excessive sweating, or low blood pressure. Sometimes heart failure can be similar to other problems, such as colic, pneumonia, or other respiratory infections.

Parents often notice that it takes a long time to feed the baby or that they are not interested in feeding after a short time. If the heartbeat is caused by a very fast heartbeat, parents may experience a rapid heartbeat through the chest wall while the baby is sleeping or resting peacefully.

Older children and teens can quickly complain of fatigue, especially if the virus infection damages the heart muscle.

Causes of heart failure in children

Heart failure is more common in children with certain congenital heart defects (congenital heart defects). These include defects like holes in the heart, which increase blood flow from one side of the heart to the other. It alters the dynamics of blood flow and weakens one side of the heart. The heart then becomes unable to support blood flow, resulting in further deterioration of heart function.

Other types of heart problems, such as cardiomyopathy, can also cause heart failure, a condition that affects the pumping function of the heart. Some non-heart problems, such as kidney failure, are caused by changes in the body’s fluid balance or hormonal changes that lead to high blood pressure.

Risk factors for heart failure in children

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • The high blood level of cholesterol
  • Physical inactivity
  • Obesity
  • Family history of early-onset heart disease

Symptoms of heart failure in children

Symptoms are slightly different for each child. They can include:

  • Swelling of the feet, ankles, calves, abdomen, liver, and cervix (edema)
  • Difficulty breathing, especially with rapid breathing, shortness of breath, or excessive coughing
  • Poor diet and weight gain (in babies)
  • Feeling tired
  • Excessive sweating when eating, playing, or exercising
  • Irritated

Older children may also have:

  • Weight loss
  • Passing out
  • Chest pain

The severity of the symptoms depends on how much the heart’s pumping ability is affected.

The symptoms of heart failure are similar to those of other conditions. See your child’s healthcare provider for a diagnosis.

Diagnosis of heart failure in children

Your child’s doctor will obtain a complete medical history and physical exam by asking questions about your child’s appetite, breathing patterns, and energy level. Other diagnostic procedures for heart failure may include:

  • Blood and urine tests
  • Chest X-ray: A diagnostic test that uses invisible X-rays to produce images of internal tissues, bones, and organs onto film.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): A test that records the electrical activity of the heart shows abnormal rhythms (arrhythmia or dysrhythmia) and can detect problems with the heart muscle.
  • Echocardiogram (echo): A noninvasive test that uses sound waves to study the movement of the heart’s chambers and valves. The echo sound waves create an image on the monitor when the ultrasound transducer passes over the heart.
  • Cardiac catheterization (cath): Assault test that inserts a small catheter into the heart from the groin or arm. It allows the different pressures within the heart to be measured to help detect heart failure. Also, a heart tissue biopsy can be obtained to determine the root cause of heart failure.

Treatment for heart failure in children

Treatment of heart failure in children depends on the cause of the problem. Most heart defects resolve on their own over time, and some can resolve with medication. Sometimes surgery or other procedures may be necessary. In some cases, your child may need a combination of therapies.   

Medicine

For some heart problems, children can take medicine after they get better. Medicines sometimes need to be taken for many years or even the child’s entire life.

Surgery

Heart surgery can provide a lifelong cure for certain heart conditions. The cardiac surgeon will discuss the risks and benefits with you in detail. Sometimes surgery can be delayed until your child is older and stronger, which means they will be able to tolerate the surgery better. Depending on the condition of your child, multiple operations may be required.

In very rare cases where surgery, procedures, or medications do not help, children may need a heart transplant.

Other procedures

Some procedures involve placing a narrow tube called a catheter into the heart through a vein to treat a heart defect. Your child will be given general anesthesia for this procedure.

Prognosis

All results depend on the cause. If the bleeding is constant due to a structural problem of the heart, the result is excellent.

Children with large ventricular septal defects, whose pores are small or surgically closed, can lead normal lives. Children with more complicated congenital heart disease may have more variable outcomes.

Older children with cardiomyopathy can progress if the cause of the cardiomyopathy is not reversible. The key to managing heart failure is making a proper diagnosis, staying in contact with a cardiologist, and taking prescribed medications daily.