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Heart Defects

Heart defects affect about 80% of babies with trisomy 13, and 90% of babies with trisomy 18, and may be mild or life threatening.

The Normal Heart

The heart is divided into 4 chambers. The upper chambers are called the atria (auricles), and the lower chambers are called the ventricles. Blood is pumped through these chambers, aided by 4 heart valves which open and close.

Common Heart Defects

Ventricular Septal Defect - A hole between the lower chambers of the heart. The heart has to work harder and may become enlarged. A small opening does not strain the heart and the only abnormal finding is a loud murmur. A large opening can cause serious complications. The loudness of the murmur does not tell how large the defect is. The baby may need treatment to clear congestion from the lungs and make breathing easier.

Atrial Septal Defect 

A hole between the two upper chambers of the heart making it difficult for sufficient oxygenated blood to be pumped to the body's tissues and a heart murmur is heard.

Dextrocardia

The location of the heart in the right side of the chest.

Tetralogy of Fallot 

A large hole between the two ventricles, and a narrowing at or just beneath the pulmonary valve and this results in blueness (cyanosis) which may appear shortly after birth.

Patent Ductus Arteriosus

Every baby is born with an open passage way between the aorta and the pulmonary artery (ductus arteriosus). This normally closes within a few hours of birth and failure to close is quite common in premature babies. When a baby has a chromosomal abnormality this process may take several weeks, and if this fails to happen some of the blood that should have gone through the aorta and on to nourish the body, is returned to the lungs.

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