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HeartValveSurgery.com: Pediatric Heart Valve Surgery–What Should Parents Know?

Patient education website HeartValveSurgery.com recently featured a video interview with Richard Kim, MD, surgical director of the Guerin Family Congenital Heart Program at Cedars-Sinai, about the diagnosis, management and treatment of heart valve disease in children.

Certain types of congenital heart disease—or heart defects present at birth—affect the development of a child's heart and how blood flows through the organ's valves. Known as heart valve disease, these conditions can be detected via a fetal ultrasound in utero, through an oxygen test at birth, or later in life if a physician hears a heart murmur through a stethoscope, Kim told HeartValveSurgery.com. Sometimes adults with congenital heart disease are diagnosed later in life after experiencing fatigue and shortness of breath.

A range of options—from simple interventions to complex surgical procedures—are available to treat congenital heart disease. Advancing technologies, including pediatric-sized devices and dilatable replacement valves that "grow" with children over time, are improving patient outcomes. "The field is growing, and the future is very bright," Kim said during the interview.

But Kim stressed that a single procedure will not "fix" the heart. "It is really important, particularly in congenital disease, that the family follow up with their cardiologist and their cardiac surgeon for life," he said.

He added that many parents feel responsible for passing congenital heart disease to their children, but that's rarely the case. "Although we do know that for some cases of congenital heart diseases there's a genetic component, overwhelmingly, usually, it's not inherited," Kim told HeartValveSurgery.com.

Kim encouraged parents, "Take your time and don’t be afraid to ask any questions of the [medical] team. It’s okay to be thoughtful … in terms of deciding the treatment plan. It is your child."

Click here to watch the complete video on HeartValveSurgery.com.