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Mended Little HeartGuide

Introduction Contents SECTION Children with severe CHD may be sent home for periods of time with electrocardiogram monitors that can measure the electrical activity of the heart during normal daily activities. A Holter monitor, for example, is worn for 24 hours. This can give physicians a better view of the heart rhythm during various parts of the day. For larger children, these monitors can be placed in a backpack to make them easier for the child to carry around. Another type of monitor children may be sent home with is an event monitor, which is similar to a Holter monitor but requires parents to recognize and record when their child has symptoms of an irregular rhythm. Echocardiogram An echocardiogram (often called an “echo” by families) is a very useful tool in the diagnosis and management of CHD. Because echo technology keeps improving, medical professionals don’t need to use invasive tests as often. The echocardiogram is essentially a sophisticated ultrasound machine (like the ultrasound used on pregnant moms). A gel is put onto the child’s skin and then a probe is placed on top of the skin and moved around so that pictures of the heart can be seen on a computer monitor. This test is not painful, but sometimes children can become uncomfortable, especially when the probe is placed on the neck area. Small children may become restless during the test. It can help to play a video or to read to them to keep them still during the test. In some cases, children are given medication to sedate them before an echo (called a “sedated echo”) so that they remain very still and allow doctors to get the clearest possible picture of the heart. Echocardiograms do not require any radiation. The echocardiogram takes two-dimensional pictures of the heart to evaluate how it’s structured and how it’s functioning. Medical professionals can also look at pressures in various parts of the heart and the flow of About My Child’s Heart Table of blood as it moves through the heart. This helps them figure out what the best treatment is for your child. This test is excellent for checking to see how patients are doing before and after surgery and has become an essential tool for cardiologists in both the diagnosis and management of CHD. Furthermore, improvements in this machine have led to the ability to take threedimensional pictures that begin to assist with certain CHD procedures. MRI/CT Scans MRI and CT scans are two other tests that help medical professionals get a good look at parts of the heart. MRI scans are being used more and more often because they involve no radiation and can provide significant amounts of information about how the heart is structured and functioning. MRIs can be very useful for looking at things that echocardiography cannot see as well, but MRI scans take a fairly long time and do require anesthesia for young children, so they’re only used when necessary. During an MRI, the child is put into what looks like a big tube in a machine which then sends detailed images of the child’s heart to a monitor where they can be viewed by medical professionals. CT scans are similar to MRIs but are much quicker. They do require the use of radiation, but newer CT techniques have significantly reduced the amount of radiation used. This test has become a good option for viewing heart structures that echocardiography sometimes struggles with. Catheterization Cardiac catheterization (often called “cardiac cath” or just “cath”) is one of the oldest tests that cardiologists use to help evaluate, manage and treat patients with CHD. In the past, cardiac catheterization was often used to diagnose CHD, but today, doctors typically use echocardiography and MRI instead. Go To 28


Mended Little HeartGuide
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