Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a birth defect in which the left side of the infant's heart is severely underdeveloped. The structures that are affected include the left ventricle, the aortic valve, and the aorta. It is a very serious birth defect and can be fatal without early intervention. It is one of several birth defects that has been associated with use of an SSRI antidepressant like Zoloft® during pregnancy.
Symptoms and Complications
When the left side of the heart is underdeveloped, the right side of the heart is forced to pump blood to both the lungs and the rest of the body. The baby is able to survive for a few days without surgery because of an opening called the patent ductus arteriosus, which delivers oxygen to the body while the baby is in the womb. When this closes, it prevents the right side of the heart from pumping blood to the rest of the body. Once the PDA closes the child will die without surgery.
Even during the time that the heart is able to pump blood to the rest of the body, the baby will be very sick. Symptoms of HLHS include:
- Bluish or purple skin, especially in the lips and under nails
- Difficulty breathing
- Difficulty feeding
- Sleepy and unresponsive
Treatment and Diagnosis of HLHS
HLHS can sometimes be diagnosed before the birth through ultrasound, allowing doctors to plan for surgery immediately after the delivery. If the baby is born before the defect is diagnosed, the symptoms will quickly lead to the use of several tests to diagnose the defects. These can include an echocardiogram, an electrocardiogram, pulse oximetry, catheterization and an MRI.
When possible the physicians will prepare for a surgery known as a staged reconstruction, which includes three separate surgeries:
- Stage One (The Norwood Procedure) - this performed in the first week of life. It involves reconstructing the aorta and inserting a tube to connect the aorta to the pulmonary artery, which is the blood vessel supplying the lungs.
- Stage Two (The Bidirectional Glenn Procedure) – this is performed when the child is between four and six months old, and involves connecting some of the veins carrying blood from the body to blood vessels carrying blood to the lungs. This allows most of the blood to flow directly into the lungs, reducing the work-load of the right ventricle, by allowing it to pump blood only to the body.
- Stage Three (The Fontan Procedure) – this is performed when the child is between 18 and 48 months old. It involves connecting the remaining blood vessels carrying blood from the body to the blood vessels carrying blood to the lungs. The oxygenated blood and oxygen-depleted blood no longer mix in the heart, allowing more oxygenated blood to go out to the body. After this stage the child will no longer appear blue, and the health and growth of the child will improve.
Talk to a Zoloft® Birth Defect Lawyer
If your baby is diagnosed with a heart defect and you were prescribed Zoloft® (sertraline) or a similar SSRI antidepressant such as Paxil® or Prozac® during your pregnancy, you might be eligible for financial compensation. To learn more about your rights, please contact our Zoloft® lawyers today.
We may be able to help you recover compensation for the surgeries and required treatment as well as the pain and suffering both you and your child will endure.