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Parental perception of small ventricular septal defects in childhood


 Professor S Menahem, Department of Cardiology, Royal Children's Hospital, Flemington Road, Parkville, Vic. 3052, Australia. Fax: +61 3 93456001; email:


Objective:  The main aim of this study was to determine the understanding and perception of parents following the diagnosis of a minor cardiac abnormality, namely a small ventricular septal defect, in the child. Other aims included discovering the reasons behind these perceptions and whether they affected the parents’ management of their child and his/her cardiac problem.

Methods:  Fifty-six infants and children from two tertiary centres and the private practices of the participating cardiologists were enrolled over a 5-month period. Questionnaires were prepared and distributed to all their parents.

Results:  Complete data was obtained from 40 parents. Close to 80% of the parents perceived the small ventricular septal defect as a minor problem and most understood the nature of the defect. However, when asked about precautions for their child, only two-thirds recalled the need for antibiotic prophylaxis. Most parents experienced distress and anxiety when told initially of the diagnosis but none reportedly restricted their child's physical activity.

Conclusions:  Most parents have a clear understanding and perception of their child's small ventricular septal defect. There is a need for further improvement to facilitate parental understanding, especially with regard to the need for antibiotic prophylaxis.

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