Hypoplastic Heart Syndrome

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Linked to Antidepressants

Giving birth to a newborn baby typically fills a mother’s heart with joy. Unfortunately, that joy can be short-lived if she learns the infant suffers from a heart defect. Even worse is the feeling of anger and betrayal that accompanies the discovery that an antidepressant medication may have been to blame.

Scientific studies have linked the use of certain antidepressants with an increased risk of giving birth to a child with hypoplastic left heart syndrome, a rare but debilitating heart defect. Though women may not want to stop treatment for their depression during pregnancy, they deserve to be informed of the risks associated with any particular medication, so they may make the best decision for themselves and their babies.

What is Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome?

Similar to other congenital heart defects, hypoplastic left heart syndrome occurs when a newborn’s heart is somehow underdeveloped. In this case, it’s the left side—the side of the heart responsible for receiving oxygen-rich blood from the lungs and pumping it to the rest of the body. The result is a work overload for the right side, which tries to compensate. Without treatment, eventually the right side will fail.

Though the degree of underdevelopment varies from child to child, certain areas on the left side of the heart are often involved, including the aorta, ventricle, mitral valve and aortic valve, some or all of which may be too small to do their jobs. Children with this heart defect may also have a hole between the right and left atrium, or other additional heart problems.

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Symptoms and Treatments

At birth, babies with hypoplastic left heart syndrome may appear normal. Within a few hours, however, symptoms usually develop, including cold hands and feet, rapid breathing, poor pulse, problems sucking or feeding, dilated pupils, clammy skin, lackluster eyes, shortness of breath, bluish or poor skin color in the chest or abdomen, and a pounding heart.

Without treatment, hypoplastic left heart syndrome is fatal. Today’s medical interventions, however, have greatly improved survival rates. A series of surgeries allows the heart to more effectively pump blood through the body. In some cases, a heart transplant may be performed.

Heart Defects Linked with Antidepressants

In December 2005, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public health advisory warning about the increased risk of congenital heart defects in women taking the antidepressant Paxil during the first trimester of pregnancy. A separate U.S. study confirmed the results.

Later, in July 2006, the FDA again warned physicians to be especially careful in evaluating the risks of treatment with antidepressants during pregnancy. In 2007, another study showed that women who took Zoloft in the first few months of pregnancy had twice the risk of having a baby with a heart defect, while those on Paxil had three times the risk. (In all cases, the baby’s risk was still less than 1 percent.)

You May Be Able to Recover Medical Expenses

If your newborn suffers from hypoplastic left heart syndrome and you took an antidepressant during your pregnancy, you may have a right to compensation. A heart defect lawyer can help. Dedicated to upholding women’s rights, Chaffin Luhana LLP is happy to provide a confidential case evaluation at 1-888-480-1123.