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Autism Diagnoses: ASD Linked to Congenital Heart Disease

In light of recent studies and various autism diagnoses, medical professionals and specialists have turned their attention towards the potential connection between Congenital Heart Disease and ASD. Research at Small Steps Big Dreams in Dubai, UAE supports that there has long been a specific association between congenital heart disease (CHD) and overall neurodevelopmental delays. Nonetheless, the channel between CHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) is comparatively complicated to explain.

Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease/defect is one or more problems with the heart’s structure that has existed since birth. The word “congenital” means that you’re born with the deficiency. This disease may change the way blood flows through your heart. A few of the heart defects might not lead to any complications. However, complex defects may prove to be life-threatening problems.

Connection with ASD

According to the investigation carried out to better autism treatment in Dubai, the children with CHD — especially those with more severe cases of heart disease, having gone through cardiac surgery in infancy — are also exposed to changes in brain maturation and/or development delay. They may also become liable to early brain damage as a result of transformed blood flow in the brain that takes place in the utero, as well as before and after surgery.

These initial neurological injuries can impact brain systems that are fundamental for development advancement and learning. This may also place children with CHD at increased risk of developing the atypical behaviors of those with observed autism disorders.

Study on the Link Between CHD and ASD

A study recently published in the journal, Pediatrics, has provided compelling evidence that there might just be an association between CHD and Autism Spectrum Disorder. This case-control study is one of the first to confirm that people born with CHD have- in estimation- a 33% increased chance of receiving autism diagnoses. This can be considered true even after having taken into consideration other factors known to elevate the risk of autism. This includes genetic syndromes, prematurity and neonatal issues, epilepsy and/or oxygen deficiency during birth.

According to the study, one of the most prominent and interesting findings was that the risks of ASD were highest in children who had less critical forms of CHD, such as atrial septal defects and ventricular septal defects. Though, the children with more complex types of CHD also had increased risk factors.

Rather than a clearer picture, this study leads up to more questions: how can this link be explained, what can health providers do about it, etc.

Study at Children’s Health Care in Atlanta

Eric R. Sigmon, M.D.,  and his colleagues from Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta also tested out a 1:3 case-control study of children to examine the supposed connection between CHD and ASD.

The children diagnosed with ASD were classified as cases, and paired with controls based on their birth, sex and interval of enlistment. Medical records were analyzed and considered for CHD lesions and associated measures.

There was a total of 8,760 ASD cases where 26, 280 controls were involved in the study. According to their findings, the patients with CHD had increased odds of having ASD after some modifications were made. This was for the genetic syndrome, maternal age, gestational diabetes, short gestation, newborn epilepsy and low birth weight.

The compelling odds ratios were seen for specific abrasions, including atrial septal defects and ventricular septal defects (the odds ratios were: 1.72 and 1.65, respectively).

Recommendation for Early Evaluation and Treatment

Specialists hope that this new information will allow paediatricians to take better care of children- with proper counseling of families regarding the expected developmental course for children with CHD.

Recognition of early symptoms related to autism diagnoses must be done as early as 18 months, or whenever there is a cause for worry. This may be done at multidisciplinary clinics that might be able to arrange for necessary developmental care for young children with CHD and their families. Either that, or they can visit a child psychologist, pediatric neurologist or even a neuropsychologist- essentially, a medical professional who can assist you effectively.

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