Medicines often are needed to treat congenital heart defects until the defect can be repaired or corrected. Some children and adults need to take medicine even after the defect is repaired. Children with certain defects that cannot be completely corrected may have to take medicines for a long time.
Treatment with medicines depends on the:
- Type of defect. Complex cyanotic heart defects usually need treatment with medicines more often than acyanotic heart defects.
- Size of the defect. Children with large or complex defects are likely to have symptoms and may need medicines to relieve the symptoms.
Medicines might be used to treat complications, relieve symptoms, or prevent problems. They might not treat the defect itself.
The following are some of the medicines used for heart defects.
To treat complications and relieve symptoms
- Diuretics lower the amount of extra fluid in the body.
- Digoxin increases the strength of the heartbeats.
- Vasodilators widen blood vessels so blood can flow more easily.
- Antiarrhythmics treat and prevent irregular heartbeats.
To treat a certain defect
- Prostaglandins and prostaglandin inhibitors help keep open or close a fetal blood vessel, called the ductus arteriosus, that normally closes at birth.
To prevent problems
- Antibiotics before certain dental and surgical procedures help prevent endocarditis in some people.
- Blood thinners, such as aspirin or anticoagulants, lower the risk of blood clots in the heart or in blood vessels.
What to think about
Know how to give medicine safely. Your child's heart medicines are very strong and can be dangerous if they aren't given correctly. For help, see the topic Congenital Heart Defects: Caring for Your Child.