Heart disease in children

What are the important types of heart diseases in children?

Most of the important heart diseases in children are birth defects of the heart (congenital heart disease). But there are other types of heart diseases which can also be seen in children. These are rheumatic heart disease as a sequela of rheumatic fever, electrical disorders of the heart, inflammatory diseases of the heart, Kawasaki disease and heart muscle disorders known as cardiomyopathies. Though coronary artery disease is by and large a disease of the adult population, some rare inherited disorders like homozygous hypercholesterolemia can cause a heart attack in older children.

Kawasaki disease is disease of children associated with fever, swelling of lymph glands, redness of eyes and in some cases involvement of blood vessels of the heart (coronary arteries). As the disease progresses, the coronary arteries may be become enlarged in an irregular fashion (aneurysms) which can lead to formation of clots in these blood vessels. Clots within coronary arteries can block the blood supply to a region of the heart and produce a heart attack. Kawasaki disease is one of the causes of heart attack in children, though rare.

Rheumatic heart disease in children mostly manifest as leaks of major heart valves – mitral valve and aortic valve. In severe cases, this can lead to heart failure. Electrical disorders of the heart can lead to rapid or irregular heart rhythm. Sometimes they can have low heart rate due to congenital complete heart block, an electrical disorder in which the pacemaker signals from the natural pacemaker of the heart in its upper chamber does not get conducted to the lower chamber. Inflammatory disease of the heart could involve any of the three layers of the heart and in severe cases lead to heart failure. Congenital heart diseases can involve any chamber, the wall between the chambers, the heart valves or the great vessels arising from the heart. They vary from simple small holes in the wall between the chambers to very complex life threatening defects. Homozygous hypercholesterolemia is an inherited disorder with very high blood cholesterol levels and can lead to formation of blocks in the blood vessels of the heart very early in life.