Consultant in pediatric cardiology in Abu Dhabi: Smoking and diabetes during pregnancy increase the likelihood of newborns with congenital heart defects
0.2% of children who suffer from congenital heart diseases may need surgical intervention
A pediatric cardiology consultant in Abu Dhabi warned of the complications of diabetes and smoking during pregnancy to the fetus, noting that the likelihood of newborns suffering from congenital heart defects increases. Managing the expectant mother’s sugar levels is crucial during the early stages of pregnancy and ensuring that the mother’s blood sugar is within normal levels during pregnancy.
“75% of children with Down Syndrome suffer from congenital heart diseases, the most common is a hole between the ventricles,” said Dr. Siham Hassab El Rasoul, Consultant, Pediatric Cardiology and Medical Director at HealthPlus Children’s Specialty Center in Abu Dhabi.
Dr. El Rasoul added, “the Fetal Medicine Unit of Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women and Children in Abu Dhabi provides us with the opportunity to manage different conditions and ensure early diagnosis.”
“International studies reveal that 1 – 2% of newborns suffer from congenital heart defects, that occur during the formation of the fetus’ heart when in the womb during the first three months of pregnancy,” Dr. El Rasoul added. “90% of these defects are congenital whereas 10% are acquired. 70% of heart birth defects are holes in the heart; where 80% of the cases do not require surgical intervention and heal within the first year of birth, but require regular checkups and clinical management to ensure recovery. A small percentage of children who suffer from congenital heart diseases need surgical intervention.”
She further explained “There are a number of reasons behind congenital heart defects in children, which could be genetic, or caused by the surrounding environment, or bad eating and drinking habits. It also could be because of the mother suffering from gestational diabetes, or because of the mother’s intake of certain medications such as treatments for epilepsy and viral infections. “
Dr. El Rasoul explained that congenital heart defects in children are divided into two categories. The first, related to the lack of oxygen such as “Tetralogy of Fallot”, where the child suffers from severe shortage of oxygen concentration in the blood. While the second type, oxygen levels are normal, however the defect would be a hole between the ventricles and narrowness in the pulmonary valve.
The symptoms of congenital defects in newborns from birth to the first year include rapid breathing, inability to breastfeed continuously, multiple chest infections, lack of weight gain and a change in lip color to blue. As for the symptoms of children between 2 – 16 years, they include chest infections, lack of weight gain and lack of oxygen.
She confirmed that the developments in diagnostic tools have permitted medical professionals to diagnose more than 90% of pediatric congenital heart defects from birth, which require specific tests to diagnose these cases. Dr. El Rasoul referred to the collaboration between HealthPlus Children’s Specialty Center’s and Danat Al Emarat Hospital for Women and Children in Abu Dhabi where tests for all newborns in the hospital are implemented for early detection and to provide early diagnosis to determine treatment plans in a timely manner.
From his side, CEO of HealthPlus Network of Specialty Clinics, Majd Abu Zant added, “With Danat Al Emarat Hospital and HealthPlus Network being under the same umbrella of United Eastern Medical Services, our physicians within the group can monitor patients of different age groups and obtain the necessary clinical support to deliver integrated care within our various specialties.”
“Cases that are not diagnosed in timely manner will suffer from complications, including weak cardiac muscle function,” explained Dr. El Rasoul. “If the treatment is delayed, heart complications occur, including increased arterial pressure, which would not be curable. With early diagnosis, the needed treatment plan is defined including regular follow ups, necessary medications and in some cases cardiac catheterization would be needed to close the holes in the heart. Some cases require open-heart procedures, taking into account that success rates of this surgery are high.’
“Diagnosis is done through clinical examination and ultrasound,” Dr. El Rasoul added. “In some rare cases, cardiac catheterization is performed for a more accurate diagnosis. New methods allow for diagnosis of the presence of a hole in the heart during the twentieth week of pregnancy.”
She also stressed on the importance of training pediatricians and neonatologists on early detection methods of congenital diseases in newborns.
She also revealed, “Our cooperation with relevant parties is ongoing where students in a number of schools and nurseries are scanned and tested for detection of any potential diseases during the early stages. As part of such initiatives, school nurses are trained on how to deal with students who suffer from diabetes, and how to raise awareness amongst students on diabetes.”
“HealthPlus Children’s Specialty Center in Abu Dhabi was inaugurated recently and includes general pediatrics, pediatric ear, nose and throat, pediatric dentistry, pediatric cardiology and other specialties. Soon after summer we will start offering mental health services for children and adolescents within our center, which is considered to be the first outpatient specialty center for children in Abu Dhabi,” concluded Mr. Abu Zant.