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Condition

Congenital Heart Disease

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Condition 101

What is the definition of Congenital Heart Disease?

Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a problem with the heart's structure and function that is present at birth.

What are the causes for Congenital Heart Disease?

CHD can describe a number of different problems affecting the heart. It is the most common type of birth defect. CHD causes more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects.

CHD is often divided into two types: cyanotic (blue skin color caused by a lack of oxygen) and non-cyanotic. The following lists cover the most common CHDs:

Cyanotic:

  • Ebstein anomaly
  • Hypoplastic left heart
  • Pulmonary atresia
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Total anomalous pulmonary venous return
  • Transposition of the great vessels
  • Tricuspid atresia
  • Truncus arteriosus

Non-cyanotic:

  • Aortic stenosis
  • Bicuspid aortic valve
  • Atrial septal defect (ASD)
  • Atrioventricular canal (endocardial cushion defect)
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

These problems may occur alone or together. Most children with CHD do not have other types of birth defects. However, heart defects may be part of genetic and chromosomal syndromes. Some of these syndromes may be passed down through families.

Examples include:

  • DiGeorge syndrome
  • Down syndrome
  • Marfan syndrome
  • Noonan syndrome
  • Edwards syndrome
  • Trisomy 13
  • Turner syndrome

Often, no cause for the heart disease can be found. CHDs continue to be investigated and researched. Drugs such as retinoic acid for acne, chemicals, alcohol, and infections (such as rubella) during pregnancy can contribute to some congenital heart problems.

Poorly controlled blood sugar in women who have diabetes during pregnancy has also been linked to a high rate of congenital heart defects.

What are the symptoms for Congenital Heart Disease?

Symptoms depend on the condition. Although CHD is present at birth, the symptoms may not appear right away.

Defects such as coarctation of the aorta may not cause problems for years. Other problems, such as a small VSD, ASD, or PDA may never cause any problems.

What are the current treatments for Congenital Heart Disease?

Which treatment is used, and how well the baby responds to it, depends on the condition. Many defects need to be followed carefully. Some will heal over time, while others will need to be treated.

Some CHDs can be treated with medicine alone. Others need to be treated with one or more heart procedures or surgeries.

How do I prevent Congenital Heart Disease?

Women who are pregnant should get good prenatal care:

  • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs during pregnancy.
  • Tell your health care provider that you are pregnant before taking any new medicines.
  • Have a blood test early in your pregnancy to see if you are immune to rubella. If you are not immune, avoid any possible exposure to rubella and get vaccinated right after delivery.
  • Pregnant women who have diabetes should try to get good control over their blood sugar level.

Certain genes may play a role in CHD. Many family members may be affected. Talk to your provider about genetic counseling and screening if you have a family history of CHD.

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REFERENCES

Fraser CD, Kane LC. Congenital heart disease. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery: The Biological Basis of Modern Surgical Practice. 20th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2017:chap 58.

Webb GD, Smallhorn JF, Therrien J, Redington AN. Congenital heart disease in the adult and pediatric patient. In: Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Mann DL, Tomaselli GF, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 11th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier; 2019:chap 75.

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Latest Research

Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Structural Heart Disease
  • Journal: Swiss medical weekly
  • Treatment Used: Choir Singing
  • Number of Patients: 24
  • Published —
The study researched the outcomes of choir singing for structural heart disease.
Latest Advance
Study
  • Condition: Ventricular Septal Defect
  • Journal: Annals of Saudi medicine
  • Treatment Used: Percutaneous Transcatheter Closure
  • Number of Patients: 70
  • Published —
In this study, researchers evaluated the safety and effectiveness of repairing ventricular septal defects in children with percutaneous transcatheter closure.

Clinical Trials

Clinical Trial
Procedure
  • Status: Recruiting
  • Study Type: Procedure
  • Participants: 16
  • Start Date: January 1, 2021
Right Ventricular Pacing to Treat Right Ventricular Failure: A Single Arm Hemodynamic Study