Congenital Heart Defects are the most common type of birth defect. Defects may include blockages, holes in the heart, or underdeveloped pumping chambers. Severe heart defects may require cardiac transplant or surgery to save the child’s life. The congenital heart defect lawyers at the Clark Firm LLP are representing women who took medicines (SSRIs, antidepressants, and others) during pregnancy, and then had a baby with a heart defect.
Do I Have a Heart Defect Lawsuit? Collen A. Clark is a true advocate for his clients and is passionate about helping Texans that have been injured or wronged. If you or a loved one has given birth to a child with a birth defect after taking an SSRI, antidepressant, or other medication during pregnancy, you should contact our lawyers immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Heart Defect lawsuit.
What is a Congenital Heart Defect?
A congenital heart defect is any abnormality in the way the heart develops that causes problems with the way the heart pumps blood through the body.
The term “congenital” means that the defect develops while the baby is developing in the mother’s womb, and it is present when the baby is born. Birth defects affecting the baby’s heart are not usually a problem until birth, because the baby received oxygenated blood and nutrients from the mother’s placenta.
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting about 8 babies for every 1,000 live births in the U.S. More than one million people in the U.S. are living with a heart defect. Most of these require no special treatment or are easily fixed.
How does the Heart Work?
The heart is divided into four chambers: two upper chambers, called the “left atrium” and “right atrium,” and two lower chambers, called the “right ventricle” and “left ventricle.” Oxygen-poor blood enters the heart through veins called the superior vena cava (blood from the upper body) and the inferior vena cava (blood from the lower body), and they enter the right atrium. When the right ventricle pumps, it expands, and sucks the blood from the right atrium, through the tricuspid valve. The valves are like “one-way-doors” that only allow blood to flow in one direction. When the right ventricle pumps again, it squeezes blood through the pulmonary valve into the lungs, where it becomes oxygenated.
Oxygen-rich blood from the lungs returns to the heart, so it can be pumped to the rest of the body. It enters the left atrium, and when the left ventricle pumps, it expands, and the blood flows through the mitral valve. When the left ventricle pumps again, the blood goes through the aortic valve to the aorta, where it flows to the rest of the body.
Paxil, Zoloft, Celexa, Lexapor, Symbyax, Effexor, Wellbutrin, Zyban, SSRIs, and Antidepressants linked to Heart Defects
Are you pregnant? Talk to your doctor about all over-the-counter medications, prescription drugs, dietary supplements, and herbal supplements you are taking. Only take the medications that are absolutely necessary, because some may cause serious birth defects. Do not start or stop taking any medication — especially antidepressants — without first talking to your doctor. Depression is a serious illness.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) / Antidepressant Drugs: Women who took SSRIs or antidepressants during pregnancy may be twice as likely to have a baby with a congenital heart defect.
SSRIs and antidepressants include:
- Paxil, Seroxat (paroxetine)
- Zoloft, Lustral (sertraline)
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Lexapro, Cipralex (escitalopram)
- Symbyax (fluxetine and olanzapine)
- Wellbutrin, Zyban (bupropion)
- Effexor (vanlafaxine)
Pain Medication / Cough Medicine: A publication in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology found that pregnant women who use some types of pain medication (or cough medicine) are more likely to have babies with cardiovascular birth defects.
These medications include:
- Some Cough Medication
A study found that women who have asthma and take asthma medications (sometimes known as “bronchodilators”) during pregnancy were more likely to have babies born with birth defects affecting the heart.
The CDC also made a warning concerning the use of hypertension medication during pregnancy, after a study linked its use to several congenital heart defects.
Types of Heart Defects
A baby normally develops with heart defects — holes in the heart known as the “formaen ovale” and the “patent ductus arteriosus,” which allow blood to bypass an unborn baby’s lungs. These holes normally close within a few minutes to hours after birth, as soon as the baby starts breathing on its own. Sometimes, when a baby is born with abnormal heart valves or underdeveloped pumping chambers, doctors will keep these holes open, because they allow small amounts of oxygenated blood to mix with non-oxygenated blood.
Heart defects can generally be placed in four categories:
Hypoplasia: Characterized by a general underdevelopment of one of the pumping chambers in the heart. The heart is unable to adequately pump blood either to the lungs or the rest of the body. See: Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome, and Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome.
Obstruction Defects: Occurs when the heart valves, arteries, or veins are blocked, narrowed, or nonexistent. These blockages prevent blood from flowing through the heart. See Also: Mitral valve defects, tricuspid valve stenosis, tricuspid atresia, aortic stenosis, coarctation of the aorta, pulmonary stenosis, and pulmonary atresia.
Septal Defects: The septum is the wall of tissue that separates the right side of the heart from the left side. Sometimes, this wall does not form correctly, and there are holes between the left and right side that do not close. See Also: Atrial septal defects, ventricular septal defects.
“Blue Baby” Defects: These heart defects prevent the heart lung-system from efficiently exchanging oxygen-rich blood and oxygen-poor blood, causing oxygen deprivation. Called “cyanosis,” it appears as blue skin, lips, and nails. All babies are born with a little cyanosis, because they are born with holes in their heart that normally close shortly after birth. Babies with serious heart defects, however, may remain blue until heart surgery can correct the heart defect. See Also: Truncus arteriosus, tetralogy of Fallot, transposition of the great arteries, and patent ductus arteriosus.
Signs & Symptoms of Heart Defect
Minor heart defects often show no symptoms, and may go undetected until adulthood. Serious heart defects may be diagnosed before the baby is born, during an examination where the doctor listens to the baby’s heart. The most common symptom is a “heart murmur”, in which the doctor hears sounds caused by blood flowing abnormally through the heart valves and/or chambers. This may manifest as a “clicking” or “whooshing” noise, as opposed to the normal “lubb-DUP” sound of a heart.
Other symptoms to look for:
- Shortness of breath
- Cyanosis (blue color in the skin, lips, or nails)
- Poor feeding
- Slow growth
- Heart murmur
- Under-developed limbs and muscles
Treatment & Prognosis
Most heart defects need no treatment, or are easily fixed. More serious heart defects may require a cardiac transplant, or multiple surgeries over the course of several years. It depends on the severity of the heart defect and many other individual factors. A common treatment for narrowed valves involves inserting a catheter with a balloon in the tip, which is guided into the heart. When the balloon is inflated, it widens the valve or the narrowed artery.
For more severe heart defects that are surgically repaired, the child will need lifelong monitoring. Most children have no restrictions on normal exercise or play, though some activities may pose dangers (weight-lifting and impact sports, for example). Most children with congenital heart defects grow up to lead healthy, normal lives.
Do I Have a Heart Defect Lawsuit?
For a free consultation, please contact Collen A. Clark at The Clark Firm, LLP immediately. You may be entitled to compensation by filing a Heart Defect lawsuit.
Collen’s amazing success in the courtroom and well known dedication to his clients has earned him the recognition of his peers as one of The Top Trial Lawyers in Texas.”
The Clark Firm has assembled a team of trial lawyers with more that 100 years experience, participation in over 600 jury trials and $60 million in verdicts and/or settlements. Please use the form below to contact us for a free Heart Defect lawsuit review.