Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a serious, life-threatening congenital birth defect of the heart, in which the left side of the heart is underdeveloped (“hypoplastic”) and cannot supply enough blood to the body. Without surgery or heart transplant, HLHS is always fatal. Several drugs have been linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular birth defects, including SSRIs, antidepressants, pain medications, and other drugs.
Do I Have a Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome 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 Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome lawsuit.
What drugs have been linked to Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome?
Always talk to your doctor if you are pregnant and taking any medication or thinking about taking a medication. This includes prescription medications, over-the-counter drugs, herbal supplements, and dietary supplements. Do not start or stop any medication without first consulting a doctor. If you are planning a pregnancy, consult your doctor to determine which are necessary and should be continued.
Selective Serotonin Reuptake Inhibitors (SSRIs) & Antidepressant Drugs: Recently, several studies have found that pregnant women who take SSRIs or antidepressant medications (especially Wellbutrin / bupropion) while they are pregnant are at an increased risk of having a child with a serious birth defect of the heart.
SSRIs/Antidepressant Drugs linked to Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome:
- 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
Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Overview
Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) is a serious, life-threatening type of congenital birth defect affecting the heart, in which the left side of the heart fails to develop completely, and is too weak to pump blood to the body. HLHS develops before the baby is born, during the first eight weeks of pregnancy, and occurs more frequently in boys than in girls. It occurs in roughly four our of every 10,000 live births, and 8% of all congenital heart defects.
In babies with HLHS, the left ventricle and the aorta are much smaller than they should be. As a result, the left side of the heart is too weak to supply blood to the rest of the body. The right side must compensate by pumping harder and more frequently.
The structures on the left side of the heart that are affected by HLHS usually include:
- Mitral valve: the valve between the upper left chamber (left atrium) and the lower left chamber (left ventricle), usually too narrow. This valve may also be completely closed.
- Left ventricle: the lower left chamber of the heart. In a normal heart, this chamber is strong, because it is responsible for pumping blood to the rest of the body. In HLHS, the left ventricle is usually much smaller and weaker than it should be — usually, too weak to function, forcing the right side of the heart to compensate.
- Aortic valve: the valve between the left ventricle and the aorta. In HLHS, this valve is usually too narrow, or completely closed.
- Aorta: the artery that exits the heart and leads to the rest of the body. In a normal heart, the aorta is the largest artery in the body. In HLHS, the aorta may be narrower than usual.
Because the left side of the heart is unable to pump blood, the right side of the heart must compensate by pumping blood to the lungs and also out to the body. Without treatment, HLHS is always fatal.
Signs & Symptoms of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome
The first sign of Hypoplastic Left Heary Syndrome (HLHS) is usually noticed when the physician listens to the child’s heart. The physician will notice a “murmur,” which is a noise caused by blood flowing abnormally through the heart. A pediatric cardiologist will need to conduct an imaging test to conclusively diagnose HLHS, such as an X-ray, electrocardiogram, or echocardiogram.
- Faster than normal heartbeat
- Bluish skin, lips, or nails (cyanosis)
- Cold hands and feet with diminished pulse
- Poor pulse
- Poor ability to feed
- Pounding heart
- Rapid breathing
- Shortness of breath
One of the most notable symptoms of HLHS will by “cyanosis”, where the infant’s skin, lips, or nails are blue. This blue coloration is caused by a lack of oxygenated blood circulating in its body. The baby will remain cyanotic until it receives a heart transplant, or the full Fontan surgical procedure is completed.
Treatment & Prognosis
Babies born with with Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS) may be considered for cardiac transplantation, but this treatment is limited by the lack of available newborn hearts. Furthermore, the average lifespan of a newborn heart transplant recipient is less than 15 years, and the patient will need to take anti-rejection medication for his/her entire life.
Staged Reconstruction is another type of treatment, usually done in three stages, beginning shortly after the baby is born. This is the most common type of treatment. In this series of surgeries, the left side of the heart is completely circumvented, and the right side is used as the main pumping chamber.
- Stage 1: Norwood procedure
- Stage 2: Glenn Shunt
- Stage 3: Fontan procedure
— Typically performed when the baby is less than one week old. This is one of the most challenging types of surgeries performed on infants. The surgeon reconstructs the aorta to make it larger, and then connects it directly to the right ventricle. After surgery, the right ventricle is responsible for pumping blood to the lungs and the rest of the body.
— Typically performed when the baby is between four and 12 months old. The superior vena cava (the vein that brings oxygen-poor blood to the heart from the rest of the body) is connected directly to the pulmonary artery (the artery that takes blood to the lungs to be oxygenated).
— Typically performed when the baby is between 18 months and four years of age. The Glenn shunt is left in place. The surgeon connects the inferior vena cava to the right pulmonary artery by creating a channel alongside the heart. After this procedure is complete, oxygen-poor blood will flow passively to the lungs, and the right ventricle will pump oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body.
Do I Have a Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome 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 Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome lawsuit.
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