Singapore has a very effective screening health programme. Soon after birth, all babies are screened by doctors for congenital abnormalities. This includes heart defects.
Some significant defects are symptomatic soon after birth i.e. baby may be breathless, blue or not feeding well.
More commonly, babies have no symptoms. But the physician, on listening to the heart with his stethoscope, hears an additional heart sound called a heart murmur. Ninety-five per cent of the time, the heart murmur arises from the sound of blood flowing in a normal heart.
If there is suspicion of a structural heart defect, the baby is referred to the paediatric cardiologist for evaluation.
Yes, that is possible because some remain asymptomatic, while others have murmurs which become more obvious after 3 to 6 weeks of life.
But because most infants are reviewed by doctors for immunisation and developmental assessment in the first year of life, significant congenital heart defects are rarely left undiagnosed in Singapore. By the time they are in school, the majority of patients picked up by the school health team for heart murmurs have structurally normal hearts.
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