- Standard electrocardiogram
- 24-hour ambulatory electrocardiogram (Holter scan)
- Chest X-ray
- Routine (transthoracic) echocardiogram
- Transesophageal echocardiography
- MRI or CT scanning of the heart
- Exercise stress testing
- Cardiac catheterization and angiography
Regular medical care is important for all children, but especially for those with congenital heart disease. Your pediatric cardiologist will want your pediatrician or family doctor to check your child regularly.
A child with a heart defect usually gets through common childhood illnesses as quickly and as easily as children with normal hearts. Sometimes parents think that their child with heart disease will need more medicine to get through an illness but this is usually not true. Also, your child doesn't need antibiotics to help prevent infections with a few notable exceptions (e.g., children with heterotaxy syndromes like asplenia or in some cases of DiGeorge syndrome). Some parents think that giving their child antibiotics before the child is very sick will prevent the illness from getting worse. This also isn't true and may make the infection more serious and more likely to be resistant to the antibiotic that's given.
It's best to remember that preventing infection starts with good hygiene, good nutrition and common sense. Frequent hand washing (or using water-free hand washes) especially during the cold and flu season and avoiding ill contacts is a good way to prevent illness. Try to avoid crowded settings like shopping malls if your child's doctor is concerned that your child wouldn't tolerate an infection. You may want to discuss with your child's doctor or nurse if it's appropriate to have your child in daycare.
Your child should have routine care and the standard immunizations that your doctor recommends for all children. Your child may also need additional immunizations, such as the influenza vaccine. If your child has certain heart defects, a special monthly immunization for a cold virus (RSV) may be recommended during the winter months.
Although IE is uncommon, children with some heart defects have a greater risk of developing it. Good dental hygiene goes a long way toward preventing heart infection by reducing the risk of a tooth or gum infection. The American Heart Association has also recently updated guidelines for preventing endocarditis. Your pediatric cardiologist will give you more information about the guidelines.
If you have questions, ask the pediatric cardiologist or nurse.