Congenital heart defects (CHDs) affect how blood is pumped throughout the heart and the body. While some CHDs lead to a small hole in the heart, some of them cause a part of heart to be deformed badly.
Causes of Congenital Heart Defects
The causes of CHDs are mainly defect in the genes. Besides genetic factors, CHDs are also caused by a mother’s smoking, Diabetes, obesity, or medications.1
Symptoms of Congenital Heart Defects
Symptoms vary and may include:
- blue nails or lips because of poor blood circulation
- difficulty in breathing
- excessive sleepiness
- tiredness when eating
- heart murmurs
Approximately 40,000 Americans are born each year with a CHD.1
Diagnosing Congenital Heart Defects
Some CHDs can be diagnosed when the mother is still pregnant through an echocardiogram while some might do undetected.
There are many different types of CHDs such as:
- Atrial septal defect
- Atrioventricular septal defect
- Coarction of the aorta
- Double-outlet right ventricle
- Ebstein's anomaly
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
- Interrupted aortic arch
- Pulmonary atresia
- Single ventricle
- Tetralogy of fallot
- Total anomalous pulmonary venous return
- Transposition of the great arteries
- Tricuspid atresia
- Truncus arteriosus
- Ventricular septal defect
Survival rates haves improved over the years. 95% of those born with a non-critical CHD are expected to live to be 18 compared to 69% of those born with a critical CHD.2
Treatment for Congenital Heart Defects
Treatment varies according to the child's age and health. Many babies born with CHDs require a surgery within their first year of life to survive.
- Surgery: Open heart surgery would be need to close larger holes in the heart, address heart valves that need to be fixed or replaced, and widen arteries attached to the heart that could easily be blocked.
- Catheter: Often, a catheter tube can be used to insert a device to seal a hole in the heart or increase the blood flow in arteries and valves.
- Heart Replacement: Babies with multiples heart problems might need heart replacements.
Prognosis for people with Congenital Heart Defects
Treatments for CHDs have improved in recent years. Almost two million Americans live with CHDs.
Children with CHDs might often be short of breath from physical activity. Most survive into adulthood to live full lives. Patients need to see a cardiologist regularly. Good oral hygiene is required to minimize complications.
Those with CHDs are at risk for an irregular heart, high risk of infect heart muscle, cardiomyopathy, diabetes, obesity, atherosclerosis, and cholesterol buildup in the arteries. Patients with a condition might need to take medication prior to surgery.
If left untreated a CHD could lead to Infective Endocarditis where multiple layers of the heart are infected, causing blood clots (thrombus formation), heart valve damage, or liver failure. Patients with arrhythmia might be at risk for blood clots. Others might have high blood pressure, which leads to an overworked heart and lungs, a larger right side of the heart, and putting the patient at risk for a heart attack.
A CHD might force the heart to work harder, leaving the child smaller and weaker than others. Normal developments in activity might take longer for the child to master. A special diet might be required as well.
As the child starts growing up into adulthood, they should be aware of their medical history to seek out treatment as an adult. Some with CHDs might need to limit their physical activity.
Women with CHDs should talk to doctors above birth control that might adversely affect their health, such as birth control pills.3
If a woman with CHD becomes pregnant she should inform her doctor to address potential infant complications. Their children are more at risk to inherit the condition.
Patients must keep in mind their medical history when seeing other doctors to avoid complications.
A more severe defect might require several surgeries or catheter procedures over time along with regular medication.
Citations (view all)
- 1. Center for Disease Control and Protection. 2014. Facts about Congenital Heart Defects. July 18. Accessed June 30, 2015. http://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/heartdefects/facts.html.
- 2. Oster ME, Lee KA, Honein MA, Riehle-Colarusso T, Shin M, Correa A. Temporal Trends in Survival Among Infants With Critical Congenital Heart Defects. Pediatrics. 2013;131(5):e1502-e1508. doi:10.1542/peds.2012-3435. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4471949/.
- 3. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. 2011. Living with a Congenital Heart Defect. July 1. Accessed June 30, 2015. http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/health-topics/topics/chd/livingwith.