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In the whole spectrum of birth heart defects, the blue babies have a special place. The parents and primary care doctors are both afraid and disappointed with this diagnosis.

CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE: BLUE BABIES

In the whole spectrum of birth heart defects, the blue babies have a special place. The parents and primary care doctors are both afraid and disappointed with this diagnosis. Most of the fear is, however, based on lack of accurate information about this subset of patients.

For understanding blue babies we should first know a little about our body’s normal blood circulation. The circulation including heart is divided into two parts. One part has dark blood with low oxygen content coming from the whole body and pumped by the right side of the heart to the lungs. The other part is bright blood with high oxygen coming from the lungs and pumped by the left side of the heart to the whole body. Normally these two circulations would not mix at all. In blue babies mixing of the blood from these two circulations occurs most commonly inside the heart. This results in the overall decrease in the oxygen content of the blood. This presents as the blueness of the hands and face. Another usual problem in these kids is some obstruction of the blood vessels taking the blood to the lungs.

Blue baby makes up about one-third of all birth heart defects. The spectrum of blue baby illness includes a lot of diagnoses including the most common: tetralogy of Fallot. The interesting thing about this is almost all of these diseases are surgically curable. Sometimes multiple operations are needed but the survival of these patients if treated early is more than 95%.

The problem India faces is two-fold. The first problem is lack of awareness and accurate early diagnosis. The parents and primary care doctors and paramedics are not aware of the highly advanced surgical operations now available all over the country including Rajasthan. Another important information is that the earlier these patients are operated the better the chances of survival. Often parents lose vital time in waiting for the child to grow up when the surgery may be required in the first few days of life.

The other problem is finances. India has a host of national and state level programs and schemes to help these unfortunate children. There are a lot of non-governmental organizations doing a phenomenal job of financially supporting these expensive treatments. With a little effort from parents, no blue baby in India should suffer for lack of funds. The only effort required is to ask for help.

 
Dr. Alok Mathur
(Director, CTVS, SDMH) 
 
 
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