Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) is a congenital birth defect occurring when the structures of the left side of the heart, including the aortic valve, aorta, left ventricle and mitral valve, fail to develop properly during birth. Because these structures are smaller than normal, the left side of the heart is unable to deliver enough blood to the rest of the body, forcing the right side of the heart to maintain circulation for both the lungs and the body. Although the right ventricle can support the circulation for a period of time, the right side of the heart will eventually begin to fail from the extra stress. If your child was born with the birth defect hypoplastic left heart syndrome, and you believe a medical error to be the cause, contact an experienced birth defect attorney to discuss your legal options.
Although a newborn with hypoplastic left heart syndrome might seem normal at first, symptoms of this birth defect typically occur within the first few hours of life. In some cases, it may take up to a few days to develop symptoms. Common symptoms of hypoplastic left heart syndrome include:
The only possibility of survival for babies born with HLHS is a connection between the right and left sides of the heart, or between the arteries and pulmonary arteries. Babies are born with two of these natural connections: the foramen ovale, which is a hole between the right and left atrium, and the ductus arteriosus, which is a small blood vessel that connects the aorta to the pulmonary artery. Although both of these connections normally close on their own a few days after birth, allowing them to do so in children with hypoplastic left heart syndrome could result in death.
Children born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome require multiple surgeries to adequately repair the malformation. During the first surgery, called the Norwood operation, a new aorta is built. During the second, called the Glenn shunt, the major vein carrying blue blood from the top half of the body is connected directly to blood vessels in the lungs to get oxygen. The final surgery, called the Fontan procedure, connects the rest of the veins carrying blue blood from the body directly to the blood vessels in the lungs. Some victims of HLHS may require additional surgeries in their 20s or 30s if they develop other complications. In some cases, a heart transplant is considered a better option than the three-step procedure, although this option isn’t always available.
Without treatment, hypoplastic left heart syndrome is fatal. Although survival rates for the staged repair continue to rise, the size and function of the right ventricle are critical in determining the child’s outcome after surgery. Possible complications of HLHS include heart failure, chronic diarrhea, fluid in the abdomen and lungs, arrhythmias, stroke, and sudden death.
Although hypoplastic left heart syndrome one of the less common types of congenital heart defect, the consequences associated with this condition are life-threatening. If you or a loved one has suffered from HLHS, which you believe to be the result of a medical mistake, contact a qualified birth defect attorney for legal guidance. You may have grounds to file a medical malpractice lawsuit against the allegedly negligent hospital, Ob/Gyn or doctor responsible for your care, in order to seek financial compensation for your injuries, medical expenses, and pain and suffering. No child should be forced to live with the difficulties associated with a birth defect like hypoplastic left heart syndrome. By hiring an experienced birth defect lawyer to represent your case, you can collect the compensation you deserve and protect yourself and your family from further harm.