Congenital Heart Defects

What is a Congenital Heart Defect?

A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart. It is present at birth. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect.

According to the American Heart Association, the word “congenital” means existing at birth. The terms “congenital heart defect” and “congenital heart disease” are often used to mean the same thing, but “defect” is more accurate.

The heart ailment is a defect or abnormality, not a disease. A defect results when the heart or blood vessels near the heart don’t develop normally before birth. Working with your healthcare team, learn about the different types of congenital heart defects, treatments and tests.

Types of heart defects include:

  • Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
    • A “hole” in the wall that separates the top two chambers of the heart.
    • This defect allows oxygen-rich blood to leak into the oxygen-poor blood chambers in the heart. ASD is a defect in the septum between the heart\’s two upper chambers (atria). The septum is a wall that separates the heart\’s left and right sides.
  • Coarctation of the Aorta (CoA)
    • A narrowing of the major artery (the aorta) that carries blood to the body.
    • This narrowing affects blood flow where the arteries branch out to carry blood along separate vessels to the upper and lower parts of the body. CoA can cause high blood pressure or heart damage.
  • Patent Ductus Arteriosis (PDA)
    • An unclosed hole in the aorta.
    • Before a baby is born, the fetus\’s blood does not need to go to the lungs to get oxygenated. The ductus arteriosis is a hole that allows the blood to skip the circulation to the lungs. However, when the baby is born, the blood must receive oxygen in the lungs and this hole is supposed to close. If the ductus arteriosis is still open (or patent) the blood may skip this necessary step of circulation. The open hole is called the patent ductus arteriosis.
  • Subaortic Defect/Stenosis
    • A narrowing (stenosis) just below the aortic valve also known as aortic stenosis (OS).
    • Subaortic stenosis may be congenital (present at birth) or acquired as part of a particular form of heart disease known as \”idiopathic hypertrophic subaortic stenosis\” (IHSS). Treatment options include drugs and surgery.

Treatment helps most children live fairly normal lives. Your child may need. Your child will also need regular visits to a pediatric cardiologist.

Options for treatment can include:

  • Medicines to help with symptoms. Some medicines can control a heartbeat that isn’t regular. Others make the heart stronger until a defect can be fixed. Your child may need some medicines after surgery. To learn more, see Medications.
  • A procedure called heart catheterization to find out details about the heart defect or sometimes to repair the defect.
  • Surgery to repair the structural defect. If a newborn needs surgery, the surgery may be delayed until the baby is stronger. If the defect threatens the baby’s life, surgery will be done right away. To learn more, see Surgery.

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