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Zofran, also known as ondansetron, is popular anti-nausea medication that’s been linked to numerous congenital heart defects. One of the many types of heart defects associated with Zofran is pulmonary atresia, and it can occur in infants after women take Zofran while pregnant.

What is Pulmonary Atresia?

According to the Mayo Clinic, pulmonary atresia is congenital heart defect (meaning present at birth), marked by the valve of the infant’s lungs not forming correctly. Normal valves open and close to allow blood to travel from the heart to the lungs. Pulmonary atresia prevents this important bodily process from happening, and instead, forms a sheet of tissue, stopping blood on the right side of the heart from flowing into the lungs.
Baby having it's heartbeat checked by a doctor
This defect is life-threatening, and procedures to repair the problem must start as soon as possible.

Pulmonary Atresia Symptoms

Symptoms of pulmonary atresia become noticeable almost right after birth. An experienced physician can detest these symptoms rather quickly, which will help start the diagnosis process and get to treatment options more quickly. Common symptoms of pulmonary atresia include:

  • Difficulties in breathing, including shortness of breath and/or rapid breathing
  • Becoming easily fatigued
  • Cyanosis: Grey and blue skin tone
  • Getting too tired to finish feeding
  • Sweating during feedings
  • Clammy, cold skin

Pulmonary Atresia Treatment Options

As mentioned earli, pulmonary atresia is a life-threatening birth defect, and treatment must begin immediately once it develops. Treatment options will depend on how severe the baby’s defect is, which is determined when the defect is diagnosed by a physician. The first treatment options may consist of:

  • Prostaglandin E1: This medication prevents the ductus arteriosus from closing.
  • Ventilator: Infants with pulmonary atresia are often hooked up to a ventilator for breathing assisting. Liquids are provided intravenously

Cardiac catheterization is another treatment option, which involves a physician inserting a small catheter in the baby’s groin area, and then guides it to the heart area. X Ray imaging helps doctors guide the catheter to the correct spot. Cardiac catheterization allows physicians to see if the infant has any other heart abnormalities and to make sure the heart’s upper vessels and chambers are still open.

Unfortunately, many babies pulmonary atresia will need to undergo heart surgery. Although the procedure is invasive and the baby may need to repeat surgeries during childhood, its proven to be the most effective treatment for the defect, especially for infants who have severe cases.

Surgery options consist of:

  • Shunt Placement: A tube is placed between the aorta and pulmonary artery to allow blood to keep flowing into the lungs.
  • Bidirectional Glenn Procedure: This form of surgery makes it possible for blue blood to flow directly into the lungs (from the body).
  • Fontan Procedure: The Fontan procedure helps to reduce overworking of the right ventricle and assists in allowing blood flow from the body into the lungs.
  • Valve replacement: Some babies with pulmonary atresia may require with valve repair or an entire valve replacement when they grow older.

Pulmonary Atresia Causes

In many instances, the cause of pulmonary atresia is not known, but scientists do know that it begins to develop in early pregnancy. In other cases, the birth defect may be caused by taking certain medications during early pregnancy, including Zofran.

Currently, Zofran is only approved by the FDA for use by cancer and surgery patients. Yet, GlaxosmithKline (GSK), the makers of the drug, began marketing Zofran as “off-label” use for pregnant women experiencing morning sickness. In turn, babies are are being born with numerous birth defects, ranging from mild to severe.

Keep in mind that if you’ve taken Zofran while pregnant and your baby was injured as a result, you have the legal right to file for damages against the responsible party. You may be eligible for substantial compensation to help out with your baby’s medical bills, pain, suffering, and more.