Introduction: While in developed countries prenatal diagnosis is currently used to detect Congenital Heart Disease before (CHD) before birth, in developing countries only a minority of children with CHD is detected and few benefit from surgical treatment. Having created a referral unit for diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular diseases in a resource-deprived country we designed a study aiming at describing the spectrum and characteristics of CHD and discuss the challenges of its management.
Population and methods: We studied retrospectively all patients assisted at a referral unit between 2001 and 2007, collecting epidemiological, clinical, echocardiographic and surgical data from hospital files.
Results: We studied 534 patients with median age at diagnosis of 4 years (range 0-79); 296 were females (55.4%). Only 282 (52.8%) patients were diagnosed under the age of two years, and complications were present in 155 (29.0%) at time of diagnosis. We operated 196 patients with mean age of 8±10 years. Only 29 of the 111 complex defects were considered for surgery. The 30-days post-operative mortality was 8/196 (4.0%). The most important post-surgical complications were post pericardectomy syndrome (22).
Discussion: A pattern of late presentation accompanied by high rate of complications was found. In resource-deprived settings the approach to the management of CHD emphasizes the treatment of "curable" malformations. Surgery for CHD in these settings must be linked to early detection and a referral system in which general practitioners, pediatricians, obstetricians and cardiologists interact in the design and implementation protocols for diagnosis, management and follow-up of patients.
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