Congenital heart disease is a problem with the heart that is present at birth. “Congenital” is just another way of saying that your baby was born with it. “Congenital heart defect” is another term for congenital heart disease.
Congenital heart problems can be simple or complex. The symptoms and the treatment depend on the type of heart problem. Many people who have a congenital heart defect grow up to be healthy and strong.
The symptoms depend on the type of heart problem. Many people have no symptoms.
Serious congenital heart problems may cause one or more of the following symptoms in newborns:
In older children or adults, congenital heart problems may cause symptoms such as:
Doctors don’t always know what caused a congenital heart problem. Some risk factors for congenital heart problems include:
It's normal to worry that something you did could have caused the problem, but most of the time doctors don't know what caused it. Talk with your family doctor if you wonder if you may have caused your baby's heart problem, but don't blame yourself.
Severe heart problems usually are diagnosed during pregnancy during an ultrasound test or right after the baby is born. Less severe heart problems may not be found until the child is older, or even in adulthood.
Several tests can show what kind of heart disease your baby has. Tests can also help your doctor see how well the heart is working. Here are some tests your baby might have:
The treatment depends on the heart problem and how severe it is. Some people don’t need any treatment. Other heart problems need treatment with medicine, procedures, or surgery. Your doctor will talk to you about your treatment options, or the treatment options for your child.
If your baby needs medicine, it’s very important to give the medicine just the way your doctor tells you to. Try not to skip a dose. If you do forget a dose, call your doctor to find out if you should give an extra dose.
If your baby needs surgery, your baby will probably stay in a newborn intensive care unit (NICU) for a few days after the surgery, so the doctors and nurses can keep a close watch. Tubes and machines keep track of your child's condition. They don't cause any pain. Many children are back to normal just a few days after heart surgery.
Some people who have congenital heart problems are at a higher risk for other heart problems, including the following:
Caring for Infants with Congenital Heart Disease and Their Families by RB Saenz, M.D., DK Beebe, M.D., and LC Triplett, M.D. (American Family Physician April 01, 1999, http://www.aafp.org/afp/990401ap/1857.html)
Written by familydoctor.org editorial staff