By Evie Andreou
AROUND one in a hundred newborns in Cyprus are diagnosed with a serious or milder form of congenital heart defects, Health minister George Pamporidis said on Friday in his message to mark the Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Day, which is February 14.
Congenital heart defects, according to Pamporidis’ speech read out during a press conference organised by the Adult Congenital Heart Defects Association Cyprus (ACHDAC), refer to the anatomical abnormality of the formation of the heart and adjacent vessels during pregnancy. The World Health Organisation (WHO) reports that around one to two children in every 100 births have this condition.
“The percentage of adults diagnosed with congenital heart defects tends to increase year by year, thus increasing the appearance of the condition by almost another 1 per cent in the general population,” Pamporidis said.
He added that there are 35 different types of congenital heart defects and affect around 0.8 per cent to 2.5 per cent of the world’s population.
In Cyprus, he said, the majority of cases are milder forms, which require regular monitoring by cardiologists and treated conservatively when necessary, while a 10 per cent of cases require invasive treatment, sometimes several times over a patient’s lifespan.
He added that in Cyprus, the health ministry in cooperation with the ACHDAC, has improved relevant diagnostic methods and introduced screening tests among teenagers.
In the past, he said, most patients were sent abroad for treatment, but today the majority of cases are being treated at home as the ministry is cooperating with specialist surgeons.
“The last four years, catheterisation was performed in about 130 cases, all with extremely successful results,” Pamporidis said.
Emergencies, especially concerning infants, he said, are being monitored during pregnancy at the Makarios hospital, stabilised after birth at the hospital’s intensive care unit and then transferred by air-ambulance to a medical centre in Israel.
“The prompt and proper intervention allows a percentage over 80 per cent of these children to have a normal adulthood, a satisfactory life expectancy and full integration into society,” he said.
He added that there is also the possibility, in exceptional cases, of providing treatment to the foetus even during gestation.
He added that his ministry has sent a doctor from the Nicosia General Hospital on a two-year refresher course to obtain the specialised training required for the diagnosis of congenital heart defects in adults who, “most often are unaware of their condition and are not in a position to assess any symptoms”.