The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) has warned that the maternal use of certain prescription drugs during pregnancy has been linked to an increased risk for congenital heart malformations. In general, these types of defects range in severity from those that are relatively moderate to those that cause life-threatening symptoms and require emergency surgical intervention. Drugs associated with congenital heart malformations include antidepressants such as Paxil, Prozac and Zoloft, as well epilepsy medications like Depakote and Depakene.
Heart Malformations Lawsuit Review: If you or somebody you know has a child who has been diagnosed with a heart malformation after being exposed to a prescription medication in the womb, you should contact our lawyers immediately. Consultations are always free. Please use our confidential email contact form or call toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.
Which drugs have been linked to heart malformations?
While the exact cause of many heart malformations are unknown, the majority of such birth defects can usually be attributed to the health and behaviors of the mother. Disease, drug and alcohol consumption, as well as the use of some popular antidepressant and epilepsy drugs can lead to birth defects including congenital heart malformations. According to mounting research and numerous case studies, the following prescription medications have been linked to heart malformations in babies born to mothers who took the drugs during pregnancy (especially during the first trimester, a time when many women may still be unaware they are pregnant):
- Paxil (paroxetine)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
- Celexa (citalopram)
- Prozac (fluoxetine)
- Lexapro (escitalopram)
- Symbyax (fluoxetine and olanzapine)
- Wellbutrin (bupropion)
- Effexor (venlafaxine)
- Depakote CP
- Depakote ER
- Depakene (valproic acid)
- Depacon (valproate sodium injection)
Heart Malformations Overview
Congenital heart malformations are among the most commonly reported form of birth defects found in the United States. Each year, more than 32,000 babies are born with some type of heart defect (1 out of every 125 to 150). Defects range in severity from those that are so slight they are not even detected until adulthood, to those that are severe and require immediate surgical intervention.
Heart malformations are structural problems in the heart that are present at birth. A baby’s heart begins to beat approximately three weeks after conception. Between days 22 and 24, the heart begins to bend to the right and fold itself into a loop. By the end of the first month, the tube has developed a heart-shaped form with the structures of the chambers and blood vessels in place. It is during this critical time that the majority of congenital heart malformations begin to develop. These defects can occur in different parts of the heart, and can affect the normal flow of blood through the organ. They may cause the blood flow to slow down, go in the wrong direction, go to the wrong place, or may block the flow of blood completely.
What are the Signs and Symptoms of Congenital Heart Malformations?
Some minor congenital heart malformations may cause few if any recognizable signs or symptoms. A doctor may not even be able to detect heart defects during a routine physical examination. However, more serious heart malformations will cause noticeable symptoms, which may include:
- rapid breathing
- cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails)
- fatigue (tiredness)
- poor blood circulation
- heart murmurs
Congenital heart malformations typically cause the heart to work harder than it should. If left untreated, severe defects can lead to catastrophic heart failure, a condition in which the heart cannot pump enough blood to meet the body’s needs. Signs and symptoms of heart failure may include:
- shortness of breath or trouble breathing
- fatigue with physical activity
- a buildup of blood and fluid in the lungs
- swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen, and veins in the neck
Types of Heart Malformations
Congenital heart malformations linked to the maternal use of prescription antidepressants and anticonvulsants include:
- Atrial Septal Defects (ASDs)
- Ventricular Septal Defects (VSDs)
- Ebstein’s Anomaly
- Mitral Valve Prolapse
- Transposition of the Great Arteries
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS)
- Hypoplastic Right Heart Syndrome (HRHS)
- Tricuspid Valve Stenosis
- Tricuspid Atresia
- Aortic Stenosis
- Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
- Coarctation of the Aorta
- Truncus Arteriosus
- Heart Murmur
- Pulmonary Stenosis
- Pulmonary Atresia
- Persistent Pulmonary Hypertension of the Newborn (PPHN)
Heart Malformation Treatment
Many of the heart malformations listed above can be corrected with a single operation in early infancy. More complex defects such as HLHS and tricuspid atresia may require a series of operations. With most severe heart malformations, the affected child spends the majority of their time in the care of their parents at home, with occasional visits to the pediatric cardiologist, as well as to the child’s primary care doctor.
Less invasive procedures such as balloon angioplasty or valvuloplasty to relieve the obstruction of a blood vessel (such as in coarctation of the aorta) may be used to treat some conditions. In these procedures, a surgeon carefully inserts a catheter into a blood vessel. A balloon is then inflated to stretch open the narrowed area of the blood vessel or heart valve.
Whichever treatment option is performed, the affected child will need regular visits to a pediatric cardiologist. At first, these appointments may be required every month or two, but after a year or so of treatment, they may be cut back to just once or twice a year. The cardiologist may use x-rays, electrocardiograms, or echocardiograms to monitor the long-term progress of the child.
Is there a time limit in filing a heart malformation lawsuit?
Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their heart malformation lawyer, it is important that you understand that time is of the essence. The applicable statute of limitations in your state may bar your claim. Furthermore, we are unable to provide you with legal advice without first evaluating your potential case. Accordingly, please take the time now to contact us by using the confidential email contact form below or by calling us toll free 24 hrs/day by dialing (866) 588-0600.
We hope we will be able to assist you with your potential heart malformation lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.
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