Health Matters: What’s the outlook of blue baby?Dr. Joshua Wynne answers the question: My daughter had a baby last year that was said to be blue. What exactly is a blue baby, what can be done, and what is the outlook?
By: Dr. Joshua Wynne, Grand Forks Herald
Q. My daughter had a baby last year that was said to be blue. What exactly is a blue baby, what can be done, and what is the outlook?
A. Blue babies usually are those who are born with a defect in their heart that allows blood that is low in oxygen (and thus blue) to mix with oxygen-rich blood (red) so that the blood that circulates throughout the body has less oxygen than it should. The cause of the abnormal mixing of blue and red blood typically is due to a hole somewhere in the heart or the arteries near the heart. These babies require surgery at some point to get more oxygen-rich blood to their bodies.
The surgery may be a temporary procedure to get more blood to the lungs so that the blood is better oxygenated or a permanent procedure that closes the hole and fixes any other associated problems. One of the more common causes is called tetralogy of Fallot, and consists of the combination of narrowing of the blood vessel going to the lungs along with a hole between the two lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles).
Many of the patients operated on do very well as they grow and mature, but they require continued medical observation and care. The optimal care of adult patients with congenital heart disease like this is in a clinic with care provided by both pediatric and adult cardiology specialists.
Fortunately, patients in the area can attend one of the two adult congenital heart disease clinics offered by both Altru Health System in Grand Forks or Sanford Health in Fargo. I have a special interest in these conditions, and I help staff both clinics. When your grandchild grows into adulthood, we’d be pleased to see her in our clinic, although I suspect that I’ll be retired from clinical practice by then!
Q. There seem to be a lot of colds and flu going around. Am I right?
A. Yes, the number and severity of influenza cases this season is noticeable, and is one of the more impressive outbreaks in the past decade. But it is important to differentiate influenza from the common cold, because the common cold, while annoying, is not as potentially serious as the flu.
Although definitive differentiation requires medical testing, the flu typically is more severe than a cold, and a tipoff is that often there are severe body aches and fatigue. In some cases of flu, we use an antiviral medication that can shorten the duration of the illness and reduce complications. Unlike the common cold, serious complications may be seen with the flu, including death. Just recently I saw a patient with influenza
A who had heart involvement. The patient is recovering nicely, but a viral infection of the heart obviously can be quite serious and lead to a variety of undesirable outcomes. So, as I’ve emphasized before, be sure to get your flu shot, stay home from work or school if you suspect you have the flu, check with your health care provider, cover your nose and mouth when sneezing, and be sure to wash your hands!
Wynne is vice president for health affairs at UND, dean of the School of Medicine and Health Sciences, and a professor of medicine. He is a cardiologist by training.
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