Congenital heart disease occurs when the heart or blood vessels entering or leaving the heart do not develop normally during fetal development. Some infants are born with mild types of congenital heart disease that do not become apparent until later in life, but others need surgery as newborns or infants in order to survive. Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect.
Congenital heart disease is often divided into two types:
Symptoms depend on the condition. Although congenital heart disease is present at birth, the symptoms may not appear right away. Defects such as coarctation of the aorta may not cause problems for many years. Other problems, such as a small ventricular septal defect (VSD), may never cause any problems. Some people with a VSD have a normal activity level and lifespan.
In the majority of the instances when a baby is born with congenital heart disease, there is no known reason for the heart to have formed improperly. Scientists know that some types of congenital heart defects can be related to an abnormality of an infant’s chromosomes (5 to 6 percent), single gene defects (3 to 5 percent), or environmental factors (2 percent).
Some heart defects may be genetic, while others are the result of chromosomal abnormalities such as Down’s syndrome or Turner’s syndrome. Maternal intrauterine viral infection, such as rubella, or taking certain kinds of medications during pregnancy can contribute to congenital heart disease. Consanguineous marriages, or marriages between close relatives, which are common in many regions of the world, are also a risk factor that can lead to children with congenital heart defects. Studies have found that the occurrence of congenital abnormalities, as well as other problems such as mental retardation and physical handicap, was significantly higher in the children of consanguineous than in non-consanguineous marriages.
While congenital heart diseases, if untreated, will often lead to early death in infants and children, the advancement of pediatric cardiology has significantly improved the outcomes for children born with heart diseases. Treatment or surgery can have dramatic results in children’s lives, and most forms of CHD can now be corrected or improved. Advances in technology, improved diagnostic abilities, such as chest radiography, electrocardiograms, echocardiography, and cardiac catheterization, allow for better and earlier diagnosis of cardiac lesions. Non-surgical interventions have reduced the number of children who require surgical treatment for CHD. Improved surgical techniques also decrease the risk of death or serious complications for children who must undergo heart surgery.
Advancements in pediatric medicine have ensured that children born with CHD have a greater chance to lead healthy, normal lives than ever before.
Pregnant women should get good prenatal care and…
Certain genes may play a role in congenital heart disease. Many family members may be affected. Talk to your health care provider about genetic screening if you have a family history of congenital heart disease.