• Congenital heart disease

    infant and nurse

    Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a general term for a variety of heart problems present at birth. These heart problems may be subtle or offer no signs at all that they are present, and others are severe medical emergencies that can put a child’s life in danger.

    Many forms of CHD are identified on ultrasound before a baby is born giving doctors and specialists time to prepare for delivery. Other types may not present until many years down the road when a child is older.

  • About CHD

    CHD has two classifications: cyanotic (causing a blue appearance to the skin) and non-cyanotic (no blue appearance).

    Cyanotic defects

    • Ebstein's 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 defects

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

    CHD may occur on its own or in conjunction with other birth defects including genetic or chromosomal conditions like Down Syndrome, Turner Syndrome, Trisomy 13 and others. One in every 125 live births in the U.S. will have some form of congenital heart disease.

  • What causes CHD?

    There is not always a clear cause of congenital heart disease but researchers believe that some drugs, alcohol, exposure to chemicals or infections in utero may contribute to development. CHD is also higher in children born to diabetic mothers who have had poor blood sugar control during pregnancy.

  • Symptoms

    Symptoms will vary widely depending on the type of disease. Some conditions could have no symptoms at all for many years and others will be severe, requiring treatment immediately after birth. General emergent symptoms include difficulty breathing, low oxygen saturation, central cyanosis (blue color to the skin), lethargy, blood sugar instability, and cardiac arrest.

  • Testing and diagnosis

    Fetal ultrasound technology is useful for analyzing the heart and identifying defects. If a problem is identified, mother and baby may be delivered in a hospital equipped to handle the complicated needs of the baby after delivery. More subtle symptoms, or non-emergent congenital heart defects can be evaluated by a pediatric cardiologist before the baby leaves the newborn nursery or in the early weeks after discharge from the hospital.

    Testing may include a chest x-ray, an echocardiogram or electrocardiogram to look at the heart’s rhythm and internal structures of the heart. All of the tests are non-invasive and painless. Testing will vary depending on the type of defect identified.

  • Treatment options

    Treatment for congenital heart disease depends on the defect. Some conditions may be managed with medications or watchful waiting while others may need one or multiple surgeries.