Numerous research project and studies show that that using Zofran (ondansetron) during pregnancy causes a heightened risk of infants developing birth defects. One of the many types of birth defects that babies are at risk of are heart defects, including a ventricular septal defect.
What is Ventricular Septal Defect?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a hole in the wall that separates the heart’s two lower chambers. Per AHA,
“In normal development, the wall between the chambers closes before the fetus is born, so that by birth, oxygen-rich blood is kept from mixing with the oxygen-poor blood. When the hole does not close, it may cause higher pressure in the heart or reduced oxygen to the body.”
When babies have VSD, the size of the opening will determine the severity of the symptoms. For infants will smaller holes, there usually aren’t any symptoms at all, and the hole will eventually close on it own. Babies with larger VSD holes will require surgery, and usually as soon as possible,as the heart works overtime to pump blood back into the body that leaks into the lungs.
Infants with VSD are at risk of developing other medical complications, including pulmonary hypertension, abnormal heart rhythms, valve problems, and endocarditis (heart infection).
Ventricular Septal Defect Symptoms
The Mayo Clinic suggests that symptoms VSD typically appear within the first few days of the infant’s life, although they can also appear within the first few weeks or months. The most common symptoms include:
- Difficulties with breathing, including losing breath or rapid breathing
- Failing to thrive
- Fatigue; tiring easily
- Excessive sweating
Not all infants will exhibit the same symptoms, as they will vary according to the size of the hole. Some doctors may notice the hole right away after birth or during a checkup. In some instances, symptoms may not appear until childhood or even adulthood, so it’s important to call your physician if you notice your baby displaying the following signs:
- Uninterested in playing and tires too easily
- Breathlessness after crying and/or eating
- Failure to gain weight
- Rapid, irregular heartbeats
Ventricular Septal Defect Treatment Options
As mentioned earlier, some babies will heal on their own if the hole is extremely small. For larger holes, surgical repair is most often recommended and is usually done within the first year of life. Surgical procedures may consist of one or more of the following:
- Surgical repair, to patch up the hole, consist of open-heart surgery. This is the most common type of surgery for VSD.
- A hybrid procedure, in which a catheter is placed into an incision made into the chest area. Once the catheter is inserted, it attempts to close up the defect. The option tends to be quicker than surgical repair.
- A catheter only procedure, in which a tube is inserted into the infant’s groin area (via a blood vessel), and guided to the heart in order to close the hole. This type of surgery doesn’t require opening the chest or making an incision in the chest.
Antibiotics and other medications are usually given after surgery treatment in order to fight off infections, increase heart contractions, and keep the heartbeat regular.
Some babies will have severe difficulties with feeding, and may require tube feeding as part of the treatment options.
Ventricular Septal Defect Causes
VSD arises from an heart defect or abnormality, which typically develops when the heart develops, during the first trimester of pregnancy, and generally before the 8th week. Genetics and factors in the environment may play a part, but it some cases, the cause is not known.
In other cases, taking certain prescription medication while pregnant, especially during the first trimester of pregnancy, can lead to heart defects. Zofran is a popular anti-nausea that’s being prescribed to women for morning sickness, even though it’s not intended for this kind of use and it not approved by the FDA to treat morning sickness.
Studies have confirmed that there is a heightened risk of babies developing certain birth defects, including VSD, when women take Zofran while pregnant. The makers of Zofran, GlaxoSmithKline (GSK), allegedly failed to perform enough in-depth studies on the medication before they began marketing it for off-label morning sickness use.
If You Took Zofran While Pregnant
If you took Zofran while pregnant and your baby was injured as a result, you have the legal right to file for damages against GSK, the party liable for disclosing any risks associated with the medication. You may be eligible for compensation to help cover your baby’s medical bills, pain, suffering, and more.