Many of the most severe side effects associated with the use of SSRI Antidepressants such as Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram) and Celexa (citalopram) are congenital birth defects, including: Congenital Heart Defects, Congenital Lung Defects, Congenital Abdominal Wall Defects, Congenital Cranio-facial Defects,and other birth defects and malformations affecting various other areas of the child’s anatomy.
According to scientific studies, women who take SSRI Antidepressants such as Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram) and Celexa (citalopram) are at least twice as likely to give birth to children with serious congenital heart defects. A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart present at birth. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of major birth defect. A baby’s heart begins to develop shortly after conception and during the first tri-mester. During development, structural defects can occur. These defects can involve the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart and the arteries and veins to and from the heart. Congenital heart defects can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart, lungs and body.
Aortic coarctation is a narrowing of part of the aorta (the major artery leading out of the heart). It is a type of birth defect. Coarctation means narrowing.
The aorta carries blood from the heart to the vessels that supply the body with blood and nutrients. If part of the aorta is narrowed, it is hard for blood to pass through the artery. Aortic coarctation is more common in persons with certain genetic
disorders, such as Turner syndrome. However, it can also be due to birth defects of the aortic valves. Many factors, including the use of antidepressant medications during pregnancy, seem to be involved. Aortic coarctation is one of the more common heart conditions that are present at birth (congenital heart conditions). It is usually diagnosed in children or adults under age 40. Coarctation of the aorta may be seen with other congenital heart defects, such as:
Bicuspid aortic valve
Defects in which only one ventricle is present
Ventricular septal defect
Symptoms depend on how much blood can flow through the artery. Other heart defects may also play a role. Around half of newborns with this problem will have symptoms in the first few days of life. In milder cases, symptoms may not develop until the child has reached adolescence. Symptoms may include:
Dizziness or fainting
Shortness of breath
Cold feet or legs
Leg cramps with exercise
High blood pressure (hypertension) with exercise
Decreased ability to exercise
Failure to thrive
Exams and Tests
The health care provider will perform a physical exam and take your blood pressure and pulse in your arms and legs. The pulse in the femoral (groin) area or feet will be weaker than the pulse in the arms or the carotid (neck). Sometimes, the femoral pulse may not be felt at all. The blood pressure in your legs is usually weaker than in the arms. Blood pressure is usually higher in the arms after infancy. The doctor will use a stethoscope to listen to your heart and check for murmurs. People with aortic coarctation have a harsh-sounding murmur that can be heard from the back. Other types of murmurs may also be present. Coarctation is often discovered during a newborn’s first examination or well-baby exam. Taking the pulses in an infant is an important part of the examination, because there may not be any other symptoms or findings until the child is older.
Tests to diagnose this condition include:
Echocardiography is the most common test to diagnose this condition, and it may also be used to monitor the patient after surgery
Heart CT may be needed in older children
MRI or MR angiography of the chest may be needed in older children
Cardiac catheterization and aortography
Both Doppler ultrasound and cardiac catheterization can be used to see if there are any differences in blood pressure in different areas of the aorta.
Most newborns with symptoms will have surgery either right after birth or soon afterward. First they will receive medications to stabilize them. Children who are diagnosed when they are older will also need surgery. Usually, the symptoms are not as severe, and more time will be taken to plan for surgery. During surgery, the narrowed part of the aorta will be removed or opened. If the problem area is small, the two free ends of the aorta may be re-connected. This is called anastomosis. If a large part of the aorta is removed, a Dacron graft (a man-made material) or one of the patient’s own arteries is used to fill the gap. A tube graft connecting two parts of the aorta may also be used. Sometimes, balloon angioplasty may be done instead of surgery, but it has a higher rate of failure. Older children usually need medicines to treat high blood pressure after surgery. Some will need lifelong treatment for this problem.
Coarctation of the aorta can be cured with surgery. Symptoms quickly gets better after surgery. However, there is an increased risk for death due to heart problems among those who have had their aorta repaired. Without treatment, most people die before age 40. For this reason, doctors usually recommend that the patient has surgery before age 10. Most of the time, surgery to fix the coarctation is done during infancy. Narrowing or coarctation of the artery can return after surgery. This is more likely in persons who had surgery as a newborn.
Possible complications that may occur before, during, or soon after surgery include:
Bleeding in the brain
Endocarditis (infection in the heart)
Hoarseness caused by injury to the nerve to the larynx
Impaired kidney function
Paralysis of the lower half of the body (rare complication of surgery to repair coarctation)
Premature development of coronary artery disease (CAD)
Severe high blood pressure
Long-term complications potentially include:
Continued narrowing of the aorta
Endocarditis (infection in the heart)
High blood pressure
There is no known way to prevent this disorder; however, being aware of your risk may make early diagnosis and treatment possible. Many factors, including the use of antidepressant medications during pregnancy, seem to be involved.
There are distinct differences between an SSRI Antidepressant (Zoloft – sertraline, Paxil – paroxetine, Prozac – fluoxetine, Lexapro – escitalopram and Celexa – citalopram) class action lawsuit and a more typical individual SSRI lawsuit. A SSRI class action lawsuit would be a form of SSRI lawsuit in which a large group of people (plaintiffs) collectively bring a lawsuit to court in the form of a “class action” against the manufacturers of the SSRI antidepressant (defendant). In a class action lawsuit involving personal injury, resulting from defective products such as antidepressant SSRI drugs like Zoloft (sertraline), Paxil (paroxetine), Prozac (fluoxetine), Lexapro (escitalopram) and Celexa (citalopram), all SSRI lawsuit plaintiffs would typically be grouped together into a single SSRI class action lawsuit, regardless of the degree or severity of their birth defect injuries. In this type of SSRI class action lawsuit, plaintiffs with injuries ranging from minor heart murmurs not requiring surgery, all the way to the most severe congenital heart defects, requiring multiple surgeries or a complete heart transplant, would be grouped into one single SSRI class action lawsuit. All plaintiffs in the class would equally share any award or settlement resulting from the SSRI class action lawsuit.
In SSRI antidepressant lawsuits involving catastrophic injury or death, an individual lawsuit, in most cases, is more appropriate and in the plaintiff’s best interest. SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro and Paxil, have been linked to some of the severe congenital heart defects listed above, including: atrial septal defects (ASD – hole in the heart), ventricular septal defects (VSD – hole in the heart), tetrology of fallot (ToF), hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), transposition of the great arteries (TGA or TOGA), patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR), double outlet right ventricle (DORV), and coarctation of the aorta (CoA). SSRI antidepressant cases such as these are better suited to an individual SSRI antidepressant lawsuit because of the severity and degree of injury to the plaintiff. In an individual SSRI lawsuit, each plaintiff’s case is filed, presented and considered individually, based on its own strength and degree of injury.
In many cases involving SSRI antidepressants like Zoloft, Prozac, Celexa, Lexapro, Paxil and the serious congenital heart defects related to these SSRI antidepressants, surgery is required. Heart surgery will typically be required when a child is an infant or toddler and then again, potentially multiple times, as the child grows to maturity. In many cases, with surgery and medical care, children may be able to lead mostly normal and productive lives. An individual SSRI lawsuit allows each SSRI victim, their injuries and their future needs to be considered on an individual basis when determining damages, awards and settlement amounts, and not as part of a class action lawsuit.
If you took Prozac (fluoxetine), Paxil (paroxetine), Zoloft (sertraline), Celexa (citalopram), Lexapro (escitalopram) or any another SSRI antidepressant drug during pregnancy and your child was born with a congenital heart, lung or other birth defect, we encourage you to contact an SSRI Antidepressant Lawsuit Attorney at our law firm immediately. It may be too late to recover from the devastating effects of Prozac, Paxil, Zoloft, Lexapro and Celexa but an experienced pharmaceutical products liability lawyer at the Willis Law Firm can assist you in legal action against the makers of these dangerous antidepressant drugs. You are not alone. Join other birth defect victims and their families in speaking up and fighting for your legal rights.
Please fill out our free online legal evaluation form and we will contact you within 24 hours, or call our offices at 1-800-883-9858 for immediate help. Please keep in mind that certain states have statutes of limitation that limit the amount of time you have to file a lawsuit or seek legal action. Contact our law firm immediately so that we may explain the rights and options available to you and your family.