Congenital heart disease is a heart problem that a child is born with. It means that the heart did not develop normally before birth.
Three kinds of problems can be caused by congenital heart disease or defects:
An abnormal path of blood flow usually happens when there is a hole in the walls of the heart. Sometimes there is an abnormal connection between 2 arteries outside the heart. In some cases, blood that should be flowing to the lungs for more oxygen flows instead to the rest of the body. In other cases, blood that should go to the rest of the body may go to the lungs. Sometimes the heart rhythm (heartbeat) is not normal.
Mild congenital heart defects may not be noticed until adulthood.
Most of the time the cause of congenital heart disease is not known.
Some conditions that increase the risk of being born with a heart defect include:
Some medicines or drugs taken by the mother during pregnancy or even a month or 2 before pregnancy may increase the risk that a baby will be born with a heart defect.
Symptoms of heart defect in a baby or child may include:
As symptoms get worse, a baby may turn very cool, pale or mottled. The baby may stop urinating and have a very weak pulse. Babies can die if they are not treated.
If the defect is mild, there may be no symptoms. Most defects, however, cause a whispering sound, or murmur, as blood moves through the heart. Healthcare providers can hear the murmur with a stethoscope.
Your child’s healthcare provider will ask about your child’s medical history and do an exam.
Tests may include:
The defect may be small and not need treatment. Sometimes it will get better without treatment. If the congenital heart defect is serious, it may need repair. Depending on the type of defect, this may be done with heart catheterization or open heart surgery.
If your child has congenital heart disease and no symptoms, he or she should have regular checkups. Your child may need to have regular follow-up visits with a heart specialist.
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup.