KARACHI: Renowned Pediatric Cardiologist, Prof Dr Najma Patel has revealed that 50,000 to 60,000 children are born with congenital heart diseases (CHD) every year in Pakistan out of which 10% die in neonatal life due to lack of proper screening shortly after birth and poor awareness in the society.
Talking to PPI on Sunday, Prof Najama Patel, who is also Head of Pediatric Cardiology Department, National Institute of Cardiovascular Diseases said that although there was no proper data about the infants born with heart defects at federal and provisional level, but congenital heart disease cases were on the rise in Pakistan as well as in the rest of the world.
She said: “Heart defect or CHD is not a single disease but there are several types of different cardiac defects. Mostly cause of a baby having CHD is not known, but it is said to be more common in babies, whose mothers are malnourished or take certain drugs which can cause CHD in their babies.”
“One important but preventable cause is checking Rubella infection during pregnancy. Survival rate of infants born with heart defects has significantly increased in the country due to improving diagnostic facilities, but more efforts are needed to save even more lives at neonatal stage.”
Ms Patel informed that approximately 10,000 babies are born with cardiac defects every year in Sindh province out of which 50 per cent patients are brought to health facilities for treatment while the rest dies miserably. She said the NICVD had registered 9,500 new cases from Sindh, Punjab, Baluchistan and Khyber Pakhutnkhwa last year.
She said: “Pediatric cardiology is highly specialized field and at present 23 paediatic cardiologists are available in Pakistan while only 12 pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons are working across the country. However, according to world standard there is need of 400 paediatric cardiologist in the country.”
Ms Patel said pediatric cardiac facilities should be established in all major cities of the country for timely diagnosis and intervention of such babies as significant number of these infants are neither diagnosed in time nor provided with the required intervention.
She said rheumatic heart disease is common cardiac disorders among children after birth which is caused by a preceding group a streptococcal (Strep) infection. She said treating strep throat infection with antibiotics could prevent rheumatic fever. She said rheumatic fever is 100 percent preventable.
She stressed the need for training general doctors and other staff for timely referral of the infants suffering from cardiovascular diseases. She said primary healthcare system of Pakistan and Sindh urgently required up-gradation to improve overall situation.
Dr Patel informed that a separate pediatric cardiac unit equipped with operational theatres, emergency, cathlab and other facilities was being built in the NICVD which would be completed soon. She said thousands of babies would benefit the facility once it was made operational.
She demanded public awareness, proper screening of babies after birth, proper data collection or registry and short or long term courses for young doctors to improve referral system so as to prevent neonatal deaths throughout the country.
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