Down's Syndrome Scotland - Learning Resources

Childhood Cardiac Problems

Approximately 50% of children with Down's Syndrome have a congenital heart defect this is present from birth.

Septal defects account for 90% of cases of congenital heart disease. These are as follows:

Atrio-Ventricular Septal Defect (AVSD) - There is a hole between the two atria and in some cases between the two ventricles as well. Both partial and complete canal defects can be corrected with surgery in infancy.

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) - There is a hole between the two ventricles. The hole can be so small that it does not cause any difficulties and in some cases the hole will close its self. If necessary, surgery maybe an option.

Persistant Ductus Arteriosus (PDA) - A duct lying above the heart fails to close after birth, allowing excess blood to flow into the lungs. If necessary surgery maybe an option.

Tetralogy of Fallot - This is a rare condition which is a combination of four heart defects, including a large hole between the ventricles and a narrowing in the blood vessel from the heart to the lungs. Any repair will require open heart surgery.

New born babies with Down's Syndrome are checked for heart defects by the paediatrician. However as it can be difficult to pick up any problems so early, a further examination and electrocardiogram (ECG) plus chest x-ray will be carried out at 6 weeks.


    Adult Cardiac Problems

    Mitral Valve Prolapse (MVP) – Is a common condition in later life. The mitral valve has two flaps which open to let blood flow from the upper-left chamber of the heart to the lower left chamber. The flaps do not close properly due to one flap being bigger than the other or because the 'hinges' of the flaps are damaged. This can cause one or both flaps to close in the wrong direction and blood can leak into the upper chamber.

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    Key Point

    People with repaired cardiac defects remain at increased risk of endocarditis, heart failure and arrhythmias.


    Quick Quiz

    Approximately what percentage of children with Down's Syndrome are born with a congenital heart defect?