September 8, 2020
Clinical Contributors to this Story
Mitchel Alpert, M.D. contributes to topics such as Pediatric Cardiology.
Whether a heart condition is found in utero, via a fetal echocardiogram or right after a baby is born during a routine exam, it’s no doubt a scary time for new parents. “If you’re a new parent and you hear from a Pediatric Cardiologist, I know that seems like it’s not good,” says Mitchel Alpert, M.D., the director of Pediatric Cardiology at K. Hovnanian Children’s Hospital. “But the truth is that the most common pediatric heart conditions are nothing to worry about, and many resolve on their own.”
Between obstetricians, fetal monitoring and pediatric cardiologists, these top five heart conditions are usually detected well enough in advance that babies—and parents—get the best care they can.
- Heart Murmurs
A heart murmur is the sound of blood as it flows through the heart. Many times this is simply normal flow that is audible to the examiner. “This is the number one item that pediatric cardiologists get called in to consult,” Dr. Alpert says. “And most of the time the issue resolves itself.”
An arrhythmia is any change in the regular rhythm of the heartbeat, like beats that are too fast, too slow or skipped. Many arrhythmias in children are isolated occurrences, harmless and do not require treatment. “We see heart arrhythmias regularly,” Dr. Alpert says. “Usually they’ve been detected in utero, but we follow these patients with regular check-ups to ensure the issue resolves itself.”
Cyanosis is the medical term for a bluish color of the skin and the mucous membranes, sometimes due to an insufficient level of oxygen in the blood. Cyanosis can be evident at birth due to the presence of a heart malformation that permits blood that is not fully oxygenated to enter the arterial circulation. It may indicate a problem with the heart or lungs.
- Congenital Heart Defect
About one in four babies born with a heart defect has critical congenital heart disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Babies with critical congenital heart disease may need surgery or other procedures in the first year of their life.
- Cleft Palate/Midline Defect
Cardiac anomalies are one of the most common congenital disorders associated in cleft lip and palate patients. “These abnormalities can lead to heart issues,” Dr. Alpert says. “But parents should rest assure that we’re on top of evaluating these babies as soon as possible.”
Catching Heart Issues Early
“Back in 2011, New Jersey became the first state in the nation to mandate that every newborn be screened for a congenital heart defect 24 hours after birth,” Dr. Alpert says. The pulse oximetry test is a simple, noninvasive, low-cost measure to help detect congenital heart disease. “If it’s not normal, we get called in immediately,” Dr. Alpert adds.
Additionally, if someone in your family—especially a parent or sibling—has known heart disease or a heart condition, a pediatric cardiologist will many times also assess the patient. “This is usually something we know about in advance, but we always check anyone with a family history,” Dr. Alpert says.
Next Steps & Resources:
- Meet our clinical contributor: Mitchel Alpert, M.D.
- To make an appointment with Dr. Alpert or a pediatric cardiologist near you, call 800-822-8905 or visit our website.
- Learn about our comprehensive, family-centered heart care for our youngest patients.
- Five ways to calm your child’s nerves about surgery
- What to know about pediatric cardiac arrest
The material provided through HealthU is intended to be used as general information only and should not replace the advice of your physician. Always consult your physician for individual care.