Surgery in infancy or childhood can often correct even the most complex congenital heart defects (CHD). But there is no such thing as a complete repair of a defect. Even after surgery, the heart of a child with CHD will never be completely normal; there will always be residual issues.
As patients grow, pediatric cardiologists have to figure out how their uniquely abnormal hearts function differently than anatomically correct hearts. While an echocardiogram works fine while a patient is lying down, children are always active and moving. How do doctors know whether enough blood flow is getting to the heart while their patients are walking to school, doing chores or playing sports?
Invasive tests such as coronary angiography can provide this insight, as can nuclear imaging, which is non-invasive but involves a high dose of radiation (just one nuclear imaging scan has the same amount of radiation as about 500 chest x-rays). There is another alternative, however—one that requires no radiation, is non-invasive, and doesn’t even require the child to be stuck by a needle: exercise stress echocardiography (ESE). …Read More