In observance of the international Congenital Heart Disease Awareness Week, Hamad Medical Corporation (HMC) is spreading awareness on the importance of timely intervention in preventing deaths and severe disability from this disease, which claims thousands of lives worldwide every year, and which is on the rise in Qatar.

Senior Consultant of Pediatric Cardiac Anesthesia at HMC, Dr Syed Abdul Aziz Syed Zin, said:

The incidence of congenital heart disease (CHD) is on the rise in Qatar.’

Congenital heart disease refers to a range of birth defects that affect the normal workings of the heart. It is the most common birth defect, with approximately one million babies with congenital heart disease born worldwide every year. Newborn babies with CHD are the most vulnerable to die from this disease because of factors such as immature organ systems and poor immune defenses.

Consultant Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon and Chief of Pediatric Cardiac Surgery at HMC, Dr Ahmad Sallehuddin, said:

At HMC, 6-8 babies out of 1,000 live births or 115-120 babies are diagnosed with congenital heart disease every year, and 90 percent or about 100 new patients every year require congenital heart surgery.’

No obvious cause of congenital heart disease is identified in most cases, but some conditions can increase the risk for congenital heart disease, such as Down’s syndrome (a genetic disorder that affects a baby’s normal physical development and causes learning difficulties), certain infections (such as rubella) affecting the mother during pregnancy, and the mother having poorly controlled type 1 or type 2 diabetes.

Symptoms of the condition may include rapid heartbeat, rapid breathing, excessive sweating, extreme tiredness and fatigue, a blue tinge to the skin (cyanosis), tiredness and rapid breathing when a baby is feeding. Fetal diagnosis and timely intervention are key in reducing deaths and severe disability from this condition.

As part of efforts to advance the quality of care for patients with the condition, HMC recently held the first Congenital Heart Disease Symposium in collaboration with The Hospital for Sick Children (SickKids) Toronto, Canada. The symposium allowed healthcare professionals to learn from internationally recognized experts such as Sir Magdi Yacoub, Pediatric Cardiac Surgeon, Founder and Director of Magdi Yacoub Research Network Qatar Cardiovascular Research Center and the UK-based charity Chain of Hope.