Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

'12 a day born with heart defect'

Zoe Cook was born with a hole in her heart (British Heart Foundation/PA)
Heart problems remain the most common defect at birth

Twelve babies are born with heart defects every day in the UK, according to a new analysis of data.

Heart problems remain the most common defect at birth and figures suggest around 6% of these babies will die before their first birthday.

The defects can require major surgery and lengthy stays in hospital and are more common than limb problems, respiratory conditions and facial anomalies such as cleft palate combined.

According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), which analysed figures for its new campaign, the number of children dying from these defects has fallen more than 80% in the last three decades. The campaign - Fight For Every Heartbeat - aims to raise awareness of the 70,000 children in the UK living with heart defects.

Professor Peter Weissberg, medical director at the BHF, said: "The fact 70,000 children are living with heart defects shows that heart disease is not just a problem for adults.

"Our research is beginning to unravel how some of these defects occur. But there's still a long way to go. Families need our support in other ways too, to help them understand and come to terms with what's happening to their child."

Susie and Duncan Cook's second child, Zoe, now almost two, was born with a hole in her heart. She had surgery last year.

Mrs Cook, 38, said: "I had to call 999 twice before Zoe had her operation because she went grey in her sleep. As a parent you want to be the one to fix anything wrong with your child. But when they need surgery, you can't. It's all the more traumatic because you feel so helpless. Fortunately the operation was very successful and Zoe's recovered really well."

A 2011 report, from the British Isles Network of Congenital Anomaly Registers (Binocar), found that more than one in 50 babies has some sort of birth defect - almost double the previous estimate. Earlier figures suggested one in 80 babies suffers a defect, which include Down's syndrome and neural tube defects such as spina bifida.

The BHF analysed Binocar data and Office for National Statistics (ONS) data to come up with the figure of 12 babies being born every day with a heart defect. The Cook family live in Cheltenham, Gloucestershire.

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