Congenital Heart Disease


Congenital heart disease is a category of heart disease that includes abnormalities in cardiovascular structures that occur before birth. These defects occur while the fetus is developing in the uterus and may affect approximately 1 in 100 children.

Congenital heart defects may produce symptoms at birth, during childhood, or not until adulthood. Other congenital defects may cause no symptoms.

What Causes Congenital Heart Disease?

The cause of congenital heart disease is unknown. However, there are some factors that are associated with an increased chance of having congenital heart disease. These risk factors include:

What Types of Congenital Heart Problems Are There?

The most common congenital heart problems include:

There are several different types of CHD's.

Atrial Septal Defect

A congenital defect in the interatrial septum of the heart.

Atrioventricular Septal Defect

A heart defect, where there are holes between the right and left chambers of the heart, and the valves, which control the way blood flows in the chambers, may not be formed correctly.

Coarctation of the Aorta ("Coarctation of the Aorta.")

The aorta is the largest organ of the body, and its function is to move oxygen-rich blood to the entire body to provide it with oxygen. Coarctation occurs in any part of the aorta, but it usually occurs in the ductus arteriosus artery.

Depending on how much the aorta is narrowed, symptoms of this will be shown once someone enters adulthood.

Dextro-Transposition of the Great Arteries (d-TGA)

d-TGA is a birth defect where the two main arteries of the heart, the pulmonary and aorta artery, are switched in position.

Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome

A malformation of the heart in which the left side is underdeveloped, resulting in insufficient blood flow.

Pulmonary Atresia

This occurs when the valve that controls the blood flow from the heart to the lungs does not form at all.

Tetralogy of Fallot

It is characterized by pulmonary stenosis, an opening in the interventricular septum, malposition of the aorta over both ventricles, and hypertrophy over the right ventricle.

Tricuspid Atresia

Tricuspid is the valve that controls blood flow from the right atrium, the upper right chamber of the heart, to the right ventricle, the lower right chamber of the heart.

Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Return (TAPVR)

Oxygen-rich blood does not return to the left atrium from the lungs. Instead, oxygen-rich blood returns to the right side of the heart, where there are oxygen-poor cells. The oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor cells combine, so the baby gets less oxygen than it actually needs

Most babies usually have a hole between their right and left atrium to survive with this defect

Truncus Arteriosus

This defect occurs when the blood vessel coming out of the babies' heart does not separate during its development. As a result, there is still a connection between the aorta and the pulmonary artery.

There are different types of Truncus, but the most common one is a hole between the bottom two chambers of the heart ventricles (ventricular septal defect).

Ventricular Septal Defect

This occurs during pregnancy, and it happens when the wall between the left and right ventricles does not develop, leaving a hole in the heart.

In this process, the blood flows from the left ventricle to the ventricular septal defect then to the right ventricle. This extra step forces the heart and the lungs to work harder, and this can result in higher blood pressure, irregular heart rhythms, or stroke.

Learn more about VSD

What Are the Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease in Adults?

Congentital heart disease may be diagnosed before birth, right after birth, during childhood, or not until adulthood. It is possible to have a defect and no symptoms at all. In adults, if symptoms are present, they may include:

Congenital Heart Defects in Children

There are several congenital heart defects that are detected and treated early in infancy. Most of them are abnormal connections among the veins, as well as other arteries of the heart (aortic and pulmonary). These abnormal connections can allow unoxygenated blood to flow to the body instead of to the lungs, or allow oxygenated blood to flow to the lungs instead of to the body. They may also cause heart failure. Some examples of congenital heart disease in infants and children include:

What Are the Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease in Infants and Children?

The symptoms of congenital heart disease in infants and children include:

  • Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, fingernails, and lips)
  • Fast breathing and poor feeding
  • Poor weight gain
  • Recurrent lung infections
  • Inability to exercise

How Are Congenital Heart Defects in Children Treated?

Some congenital heart defects will require surgery or an interventional procedure to repair the problem.

Children with congenital heart disease may also need treatment with medication to improve heart function.

Children and adults with congenital heart disease should be treated by a cardiologist who specializes in congenital heart disease. Some types of disease may require a team approach as the child grows into an adult.

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