Babies born to mothers who took certain antidepressant or epilepsy drugs during pregnancy have been diagnosed with a severe congenital heart defect known as hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). This adverse condition is characterized by the underdevelopment of the left side of the heart, and results in the organ’s inability to pump blood efficiently throughout the body. If left untreated, hypoplastic left heart syndrome can lead to heart failure and even death. Prescription medications currently linked to HLHS include SSRI antidepressants such as Lexapro, Wellbutrin and Effexor, as well as epilepsy drugs like Depakote and Depakene.

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Lawsuit Review: If you or somebody you know has a child who has been diagnosed with hypoplastic left heart syndrome 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 medications have been linked to hypoplastic left heart syndrome?

The following antidepressants and epilepsy drugs have been linked to the development of hypoplastic left heart syndrome 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 (Divalproex Sodium)
  • Depakote CP
  • Depakote ER
  • Depakene (valproic acid)
  • Depacon (valproate sodium injection)

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome Overview

To understand hypoplastic left heart syndrome, it is helpful to have a basic understanding of how a normal heart works. The heart is composed of four chambers: the upper filling chambers are called the left and right atria, and the lower pumping chambers are called the left and right ventricles. Blood flows from the right atrium down to the right ventricle, where it is then pumped through the pulmonary artery into the lungs, where it is replenished with oxygen. Blood then flows back to the heart via the left atrium to the left ventricle, which pumps the freshly-oxygenated blood through the aorta out into the body.

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome occurs when the left side of the child’s heart – the left ventricle, aortic valve, and aorta – is severely underdeveloped. When a baby is born with HLHS, the right side of the heart must pump blood to both the lungs and the rest of the body.

Babies with HLHS typically do not have problems in utero – it is only after birth that the heart begins to malfunction. This is because, prior to being born, babies receive oxygen from the placenta so blood does not need to go to the lungs. Oxygen is delivered through a connection called the ductus arteriosus in the womb. This vessel usually closes one or two days after birth. When this occurs in a baby with HLHS, the right side of the heart is unable to pump blood out to the rest of the body.

In severe cases of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, the underdeveloped heart can’t pump efficiently enough to support life, causing the child to get extremely sick. Without immediate surgical intervention, most children with HLHS die within the first few days of life.

What are the Symptoms of Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome?

Although many infants born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome may appear normal at birth, telltale signs typically develop within the first few hours of life. Symptoms of HLHS may include:

  • lethargy
  • poor suckling and feeding
  • shortness of breath
  • rapid breathing
  • cold extremities
  • enlarged liver
  • poor pulse
  • pounding heart
  • bluish (cyanosis) or poor skin color
  • sudden death

Treatment & Prognosis (Outlook)

Unfortunately, HLHS is one of the most complex cardiac defects seen in babies and remains one of the most challenging to manage of all heart-related congenital abnormalities. There are essentially three treatment options for babies born with HLHS:

  • Cardiac Transplantation: This procedure is performed as a primary treatment for HLHS at some centers around the country. The advantage of cardiac transplantation is that it replaces the malfunctioning heart with a correctly structured one, but this method is limited by the lack of newborn organs available for transplantation as well as the life-long need for anti-rejection therapy. Additionally, although outcomes for transplantation continue to improve, the average lifespan of a transplanted heart is currently less than 15 years.
  • Staged Reconstruction: The most commonly pursued method of treatment for HLHS, staged reconstruction involves a series of operations – usually three – which are performed to reconfigure the child’s cardiovascular system to be as efficient as possible despite the lack of an adequate left ventricle. Staged reconstruction does not correct the lesion, and is instead considered ‘palliative.’
  • No Treatment: In the past, due to poor outcomes, no treatment was often recommended for babies born with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. Today, however, it is rare that a family may choose not to treat a child with HLHS, though in some severe cases no treatment may still be advised.

Is there a time limit in filing a hypoplastic left heart syndrome lawsuit?

Although we encourage all our potential clients to take great care in selecting their hypoplastic left heart syndrome lawyer, it is important that you understand that time is of the essence. The applicable statute of limitations in your state may time 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 hypoplastic left heart syndrome birth defects lawsuit and look forward to speaking with you.


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