Congenital Heart Disease : Causes, Symptoms, And Treatment

Originally posted on October 3, 2022 @ 8:37 pm

Another term for a heart condition present at birth is “congenital heart defect.” The heart might have suffered from a minor hole or something more serious. Despite the potential severity of these conditions, surgery is a common form of treatment.

In some instances, doctors can identify these issues in a baby even before it is born. Sometimes it’s diagnosed as a child or as an adult. If you or your child has a congenital heart disease, symptoms may not appear until adulthood or may not appear at all.

Causes of Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease in infants are sometimes caused by unknown factors. Congenital heart defects frequently run in families, and if a parent or other relative has issues, the likelihood of having them also increases. These additional factors also increase the likelihood of these flaws:

  • There are issues with the child’s genes or chromosomes, such as Down syndrome. A baby may have up to a 50% greater chance of having a defect if certain gene changes occur.
  • Using drugs, alcohol, or smoking while pregnant is not All have the potential to cause developmental issues for a baby as well as congenital heart defects. When pregnant, stay away from them.
  • medicines. Using certain medications while pregnant increases the risk of birth defects like heart defects. Isotretinoin, a drug used to treat acne, and valproate-containing anti-seizure medications are two examples. Your doctor might be able to change your medication if you’re pregnant until the birth of the baby.
Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital Heart Disease
  • Rubella-like virus infection (German measles) during the first trimester of pregnancy. The baby’s heart may have issues if a woman has rubella while pregnant. Vaccinations are typically given to children. Inform your doctor if you are pregnant and you weren’t immunized or if you are unsure. You should wait at least a month after receiving a rubella vaccination before trying to get pregnant.
  • Diabetes The development and growth of the mother’s baby’s heart may be impacted by diabetes. Gestational diabetes during pregnancy shouldn’t make it more likely that a baby will be born with a heart defect.

Types Of Congenital Heart Disease

The majority of congenital heart disease are structural, such as holes and leaky valves. They comprise:

  • Heart Valve Problems. One might be too small or totally closed. Blood has a difficult time passing because of this. It is occasionally completely unable to pass. In other situations, the valve may not close completely, causing the blood to leak backward.
  • The “Walls” of the Heart Issues Your heart’s atria and ventricles are the two chambers that it might be. Blood may mix when it shouldn’t because of holes or passageways between the left and right sides of the heart.
  • problems involving the heart’s muscles These can cause heart failure, which occurs when the heart is unable to pump blood as effectively as it should.

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  • Faulty blood vessel connections This may cause blood in babies to divert from the lungs to other parts of the body or the opposite. The lack of oxygen in the blood from these flaws can cause organ failure.

Symptoms Of Congenital Heart Disease

Adults with congenital heart disease may not experience any symptoms. If they do, they may consist of:

  • Respiration difficulty
  • Exercise-related issues

Children and infants with congenital heart disease may exhibit the following signs:

  • The lips, nails, and skin have a bluish tint (cyanosis, a condition caused by a lack of oxygenated blood).
  • Rapid breathing and poor nutrition.
  • Unhealthy weight gain.
  • Chest infections
  • Not being able to exercise

Diagnosis of Congenital Heart Disease

The Diagnosis of congenital heart disease are as follows:

Before birth Doctors may discover a few issues during pregnancy. Before your baby is born, your doctor might be able to spot a defect using:

A scan of the fetal heart This test uses ultrasound pictures to show how the heart moves. This lets your doctor see if there are any structural or valve problems.

DNA analysis A geneticist takes a small blood sample before or during your pregnancy. It’s crucial because if you or a member of your family has an abnormality, your child’s likelihood of having one can increase by as much as 50%.

Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital Heart Disease

Growing up Infants and children may experience other issues. The doctor checks your child’s health by hearing their heartbeat. If they hear a strange sound or heart murmur, they may ask for more tests, such as:

Echocardiogram This type of ultrasound takes images of the heart without causing any pain. Almost any congenital heart defect can be found, and it typically takes less than an hour. Ask your doctor what to anticipate before having an echocardiogram, as there are various types.

Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG) The electrical activity of the heart is measured by this. This test can find areas of the heart that are too big or too active, as well as heart rhythm problems called arrhythmias.

A chest X-ray A chest X-ray can reveal signs of an enlarged or oddly shaped heart as well as heart failure, such as fluid in the lungs.

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CT scans and MRIs Computed tomography scans and magnetic resonance imaging are two additional imaging procedures that can give precise views of the heart.

Pulse Oximetry Through a finger sensor, this gauges the blood oxygen level in your child. A heart condition may be indicated if it displays too little.

Heart Catheterization. Your child’s doctor might advise a cardiac catheterization if any of the earlier tests reveal that they have a congenital heart defect. In order to access the heart, a doctor must thread a very small, flexible tube (referred to as a catheter) through a blood vessel in the arm or leg. They insert a dye through the catheter before using X-ray images to view the heart.

Among adults Some congenital heart defect sufferers are unaware of their issues until much later in life. You might experience symptoms or your doctor might discover problems during a routine physical. After you’ve undergone a heart examination like an echocardiogram, your doctor might also discover it.

Treatment of Congenital Heart Disease

The chances of having a congenital heart disease corrected for you or a loved one are higher than ever. Some flaws might not require any sort of remedy. Several surgeries or other procedures might be required for some patients’ treatment. For some, all it takes is one.

Some young people and adults may require medication for the rest of their lives. Also, they might need to see their cardiologist, who is an expert on the heart, more often.

Medicines For Congenital Heart Disease

The heart may have to work harder as a result of congenital heart disease. Your doctor might try to treat you with medication to prevent your heart from weakening due to the additional work. They are intended to reduce the strain on the heart muscle.

If you have any sort of heart issue, you must manage your blood pressure. Some commonly used blood pressure-lowering medications may also slow the heart rate and reduce fluid retention in the body. These comprise:

ACE inhibitors and ARBs These are two common classes of blood pressure-lowering medications. They loosen up blood vessels, which facilitates easier blood pumping by your heart.

Beta-blockers These drugs slow your heartbeat and widen your arteries. Atenolol (Tenormin), carvedilol (Coreg CR), and metoprolol are a few types of beta blockers that your physician might recommend (Lopressor).

Diuretics These drugs reduce fluid levels and are also known as “water pills. Your blood pressure may drop if you have less blood flow.

In cases where surgery is not a good option, medications might be sufficient to help treat the condition. Sometimes, doctors will need to take further action.


Thanks to new technology, doctors now have simpler and more effective ways to correct these flaws. Within hours of birth, your baby may undergo surgery or catheterization, depending on the issue. Other times, it might occur weeks or even months later.

Infants occasionally require a number of procedures as they get older. For instance, replacement valves will need to be changed as their hearts grow. Your physician will let you know what they will require and when.

For treating congenital heart defects, there are primarily two options. One uses a catheter, which eliminates the need to open the chest. Open heart surgery is the other.

The Insertion of a Cardiac Catheter

Catheters are being used more frequently by doctors to repair damaged hearts. These procedures, also known as cardiac catheterizations, are used to close holes in the heart or widen arteries or valves that have become narrow.

The wall separating the left and right sides of the heart, for instance, can be fixed by doctors. An atrial septal defect, a common congenital heart defect, is what this is (ASD). A tiny umbrella-shaped patch can be applied over the hole by the doctor using a catheter. Over the covering, tissue will form and maintain the integrity of the wall.

A narrowed artery or stiff valve can also be opened up by a doctor. They can also cover a hole with a patch or use one to close off a vessel if it is pumping blood in the wrong direction.

They can also attach a catheter with a tiny balloon to it and guide it toward an artery or valve that isn’t functioning properly.

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The doctor can blow up the balloon to widen the valve or artery. Better blood flow is made possible by this. A valvuloplasty is what it is known as when it is performed on a valve. It is known as an angioplasty when performed on an artery.

Heterologous procedures might not be able to resolve all problems. Some people require medication, and young children may eventually require surgery. However, these procedures can improve blood flow and keep your baby healthy while treatment is ongoing in the months and years to come.

An Open Heart Operation

Your doctor may occasionally recommend open heart surgery for you or your child. With this procedure, a surgeon must cut through the breastbone to perform direct heart surgery. Heart holes, valve issues, and narrow arteries are among the defects that may require open-heart surgery.

Some people might need additional surgeries or other procedures years later because their hearts enlarge along with them. You will receive general anesthesia if you require open heart surgery so that you won’t be conscious or in pain during the procedure.

Recovery of Congenital Heart Disease

A newborn is taken to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) after an operation or procedure. Your child’s stay there will be determined by the procedure and how well they are recovering. When the doctors give you the all-clear to take your baby home, they’ll give you detailed instructions on how to care for your baby at home, when to schedule follow-up appointments, and what to do if you have any questions or concerns.

Standard intensive care units are used for adult patients (ICU). If everything goes well with your recovery, you will move on to a step-down room before being allowed to go home.

In the days following open heart surgery, you might experience some pain.

Your doctor should provide you with instructions regarding your medications and post-surgery aftercare for the affected area. Ask your doctor when to be contacted, as well as how to look for any indications of infections or other issues.

Catheters only require a tiny cut in the leg, so recovery is much quicker and simpler than with open-heart surgery.

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Follow-up appointments are crucial for both kinds of procedures. Please feel free to inquire about anything, including how to bathe your child after a heart operation or what kind of care you will require in the future.

There are additional considerations.

Depending on the circumstances, these procedures vary in how long they take doctors. Don’t worry if it requires several hours. You can ask ahead of time how long it will take, but keep in mind that this is only a rough estimate.

Even after a successful operation, infants with congenital heart disease frequently tire faster than other kids their age. They may experience that as they eat, which could temporarily slow their growth. If you think the feeding schedule for your baby needs to be changed, discuss it with your doctor or the nurses.

Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital Heart Disease

Early developmental milestones like rolling over, sitting up, standing up, and gaining weight may take them a little longer to accomplish.

Since this is a naturally anxious time, enlist the help of family and friends. Any queries can be directed to the medical professionals caring for your infant. More knowledge frequently leads to greater mental tranquility.

When to Call Your Medical Doctor MD

Not all congenital heart defect symptoms necessitate seeing a doctor. By listening to your baby’s heartbeat, for instance, your doctor might have heard a heart murmur. Murmurs, which are essentially just additional noises made by the heartbeat, can be brought on by certain heart conditions.

However, not every murmur indicates a heart condition. In actuality, healthy children also frequently exhibit them. A pediatric cardiologist, also known as a children’s heart doctor, may be recommended to you if your baby’s doctor detects one.

The need to see your doctor may arise from additional symptoms, though. Serious issues consist of:

Cyanosis is the condition that results in blue skin. The skin on your infant might be slightly blue, especially around the mouth and fingers. It occurs when the heart is unable to sufficiently pump blood through the lungs to supply oxygen to the rest of the body. When they cry or feed, keep an eye out for any cyanosis symptoms. If they do, make an immediate call to your doctor.

Circulation issues. Your baby may have poor blood circulation if they get tired easily and don’t grow as quickly as they should for their age. Your doctor can investigate that. This is also true for older kids who get tired quickly during routine play. If any of these symptoms appear, consult your child’s doctor.

Breathing Difficulties Children who are healthy rarely experience shortness of breath. Call your doctor if your baby groans while breathing or struggles to catch their breath while being fed.

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Inflammation Dial your doctor’s number if you see any swelling in your baby’s legs, abdomen, or around their eyes. These are serious indicators of a heart condition, including heart failure.

Cardiac Arrest Although very serious, heart failure is frequently treatable. If you experience any of these heart failure symptoms, call your doctor right away.

  • Accumulation of fluid in the body.
  • Fatigue
  • Respiration difficulty
  • A lower leg or stomach swelling

My Chest Hurts Call 911 if your infant experiences chest pain or sudden cardiac arrest, in which their heart rhythm becomes unbalanced and they become unconscious or unresponsive. Inform the medical staff of the congenital heart defect you have.

What else should you keep an eye out for? Ask your doctor. Once you are aware of this, you can feel more confident that your child will be okay

Congenital Heart Defect: Growing Up

You’ll be filled with worries and questions if your child was born with a congenital heart defect. But try to keep in mind that many kids with these conditions grow up to live long, healthy lives.

  • Maintenance is Crucial. Your child’s likelihood of developing later heart issues is increased by congenital heart defects. Because of this, it’s important to keep making regular visits to a pediatric, or children’s, cardiologist.
  • Some congenital heart conditions don’t require treatment until later in life. For instance, a baby born with two “leaflets” instead of three in the valve is said to have bicuspid aortic valve disease. There are usually no symptoms, but a doctor may need to replace or repair the valve when the patient is in their 40s, 50s, or even 60s.
  • Heart issues are more likely to affect your child. They have a higher risk of developing infective endocarditis, a condition that affects the heart. They could also have problems with the way their heart beats, called arrhythmias, and they could have heart failure.

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  • Sports and physical activity may be accessible to your child. With certain restrictions, these are probably still feasible. For advice on appropriate activities and safety measures, consult your child’s doctor. They might advise against playing contact sports, for instance. Just be aware of signs that your child is doing too much, like being very tired, having trouble breathing, or taking a long time to get back to normal after playing.
  • Be Mindful. Your child may grow more slowly if they have serious cardiac problems. Infancy: They may even experience fatigue during feedings and consume less food than a healthy infant. They may therefore be smaller than their friends. Although they should “catch up” by the time they reach adulthood, this is normal.


Particularly if their heart was repaired or replaced through surgery, people with congenital heart abnormalities are more prone to experiencing endocarditis, an inflammation of the inner layer of the heart.

For your own safety,

  • Inform every dentist and doctor that you see that you have congenital heart disease. It might be a good idea to carry a card with this information.
  • If you experience signs of an infection, contact your doctor right away (sore throat, general body aches, fever).
  • Infections can be avoided by taking appropriate care of your teeth and gums. Visit your dentist on a regular basis.
  • Take antibiotics before any medical procedure, such as dental work or the majority of surgeries, if your doctor advises it. The type and dosage of antibiotics you should take should be discussed with your doctor.  b

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