Not all heart defects need specific treatment. For example, if the child has a small hole in the heart such as a ventricular septal defect, no treatment is necessary. The child should be treated like any normal child and allowed normal physical activities. Most of these holes become smaller with time and some may close spontaneously. There is a small risk of bacterial infection of the area around the hole because of flow turbulence. Patients are advised to have good dental care, and if they were to undergo dental or surgical procedures, to take a prophylactic course of antibiotics to prevent bacteria from seeping into the blood and infecting the heart.
For significant defects, for example a moderate to large ventricular septal defect, the baby can present with heart failure - the signs of which include poor feeding, breathlessness and poor weight gain. We treat these babies with medication. Some improve as the defect becomes smaller over time. Others who do not improve with medical treatment are referred to the heart surgeon to close the defect surgically.
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