Sometimes, small anomalies can develop into severe congenital heart defects. The initial mild condition can lead to further complications affecting the heart, vessels, or lungs as the foetus grows and develops in the womb. Such developments determine the postnatal prognosis and recommended treatment options.
A significantly narrowed or blocked valve can restrict the blood flow and blood pressure. As a result, the heart cannot grow and form correctly, causing one of the ventricles (heart chambers) to be underdeveloped or – in the worst case – leading to heart failure. Often, serious conditions only present themselves after birth as the baby’s blood flow changes from foetal to neonatal circulation. If one of the ventricles is already too severely damaged and normal biventricular circulation (with two functioning heart chambers) cannot be maintained or restored, the only option is univentricular palliative surgery.
In order to prevent the condition from reaching such a critical stage, prenatal heart surgery and interventions are needed. Increased efforts over the last decade have led to the development of very small endoscopes, cannulas and advanced imaging methods. All of this helps to increase and improve options for prenatal treatments.