Heart defects happen when any part of the heart or blood vessels around the heart does not develop normally when the baby is still in the womb. A heart defect can disrupt the blood flow in the heart and cause blood to flow through the heart abnormally. It also can cause abnormalities in the rhythm of the heart.
Some heart defects are minor and may require little treatment. But more than 50% of children born with a heart defect need medical treatment to correct the problem.
One of the major causes of these birth defects is exposure to certain drugs, including anticonvulsant and chemotherapy medications that are prescribed by doctors to pregnant women. If your child was born with a heart defect and you think a medical error or prescription drug caused it, it is wise to contact a heart defect attorney to explore your legal options. You could be eligible for compensation in a heart defects lawsuit.
Types of Heart Defects
The most common heart defects in babies are:
- Atrial and ventricular septal defects: Holes in the wall that separates the right and left sides of the heart.
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome: Malformation that affects the development of the life side of baby’s heart.
- Patent ductus arteriosus: Failure of the channel that allows blood to go around the lungs during fetal development to close after birth.
- Coarctation of aorta: Narrowing of the aorta blood vessel, which is the largest blood vessel carrying blood from the heart.
- Transposition of the great arteries: Defect where the connections of the aorta and pulmonary artery are reversed.
- Tetralogy of Fallot: Four heart defects that together restrict blood flow to the lungs.
- Aortic or pulmonary valve stenosis: Narrowing of valves that allow blood to flow from to lungs and other parts of the body.
Common Causes of Heart Defects
Women who take certain drugs are more likely to have babies with a heart defect. Some of the drugs that can cause heart and other defects in babies are SSRIs and antidepressants:
- Paxil, Seroxat
- Zoloft, Lustral
- Lexapro, Cipralex
- Wellbutrin, Zyban
Other types of drugs that can cause heart defects in babies are pain and cough medicines. According to a report in the American Journal of Obstetrics & Gynecology, pregnant women who use pain medication or cough medication can have babies with heart defects:
- Various cough medicines
Asthma medications such as bronchodilators during pregnancy also are more likely to have babies with heart defects. The CDC also reported recently that some hypertension drugs can cause congenital heart defects. (AHAjournals.org)
Another medicine that can cause heart defects in infants is Zofran, which some doctors prescribe to pregnant women for morning sickness. However, a clinical study performed in Denmark involving 900,000 birth from 1997 to 2010 found that pregnant women who took the drug in the first three months of pregnancy were two times as likely to have a baby with a congenital heart defect.
Zofran’s effects on the development of the fetus also were studied in 2014. Researchers in Sweden found that babies exposed to Zofran during the first three months of the pregnancy were 1.6 times more likely to be born with cardiac septum defects, atrial septal defects, ventricular septal defects and atrioventricular septal defects. (NIH.gov)
If you took one of the above medications and have a baby with a heart defect, it would be beneficial to speak to a birth defect attorney to determine if you are eligible for compensation in a lawsuit.
Zofran Lawsuits for Birth Defects
There have been more than 500 Zofran lawsuits filed and consolidated into multidistrict litigation (MDL) in Massachusetts. Discovery started in 2016, but no trial dates have been set. Plaintiffs in the Zofran MDL accuse GlaxoSmithKline of illegally promoting the drug for off label uses during pregnancy, allegedly hiding evidence that Zofran can boost the risk for congenital birth defects, including heart defects.
Symptoms of Congenital Heart Defects
Minor heart defects may show no symptoms and can be undetected until the adult years. A serious heart defect could be diagnosed prior to birth when your doctor listens to the baby’s heart.
The most common symptom of a congenital heart defect is a heart murmur. This is where the doctor hears a sound caused by blood flowing abnormally through the heart chambers or valves. This can sound like a clicking or whooshing noise, rather than the normal ‘lubb-DUB’ sound of a normal heart.
Other possible symptoms are:
- Shortness of breath
- Blue color in the baby’s skin, lips or nails (cyanosis)
- Poor feeding
- Slow growth
- Heart murmur
- Underdeveloped muscles and limbs
Treatment and Prognosis for Heart Defects
Treatment for heart defects depends on the type and severity of the defect. Other factors are the child’s size, age, and overall health. Heart defects such as atrial and ventricular septal defects usually require surgery to fix the malformation and correct any problems. But even children who get quick treatment for a heart defect could have serious complications, such as heart failure, stroke, and even death.
Contact a Heart Defects Lawsuit Attorney
Heart defects are the most common birth defects and are one of the top causes of birth defect-related deaths for infants. If you or a loved one suffered from a heart defect and you think it is because of a medical mistake or a dangerous drug, please contact an experienced heart defect attorney today.
You may be entitled to compensation for medical expenses, pain and suffering, and other damages. You may be able to collect damages from filing a medical malpractice lawsuit against the doctor or hospital that was responsible for your care. Or you may be eligible to file a product liability lawsuit against the pharmaceutical company who produced the drug that caused the birth defect.
- Antihypertensive Medication Use During Pregnancy and the Risk of Cardiovascular Malformations. (2009). Retrieved from https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/hypertensionaha.109.129098
- Use of Ondansetron During Pregnancy and Congenital Malformations in the Infant. (2014). Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/25450422