A congenital heart defect is any structural abnormality of the heart which is present at birth. These heart defects typically are present and show symptoms through the person's whole life. Congenital heart defects are typically detected shortly after the baby is born by lab tests or imaging results. However, some minor heart defects may go unrecognized until the child is older and begins to present with symptoms. Although it can sound scary to a new parent, congenital heart defects are one of the most common defects at birth. There are many different types of heart defects, each of which present their own challenges. Although some may be severe and even cause death, many can be treated at birth or later on in the child's life through medications or surgeries.
There are several types of congenital heart defects. These different types may include problems with the internal structure or functioning of the heart. Here are some of the most common congenital heart defects:
Considering the complicated anatomy of the heart, there are a number of other congenital heart diseases that may occur in infants. Each of these is named after the part of the heart where the defect occurred. Depending on the type of condition, the heart may be missing an essential part (e.g. presence of a single ventricle), have an extra part (double-outlet of the right ventricle) or have a structural abnormality (e.g. atrioventricular septal defect).
Depending on the type of congenital heart defect, an individual may experience different signs and symptoms. Here are some of the most common signs and symptoms:
Some types of congenital heart disorders lead to mild symptoms while others lead to severe or even fatal symptoms. Some symptoms may be treated through medications and surgery while others are unable to be managed. Depending on the type of congenital heart disorder, the age of the person and the severity of the condition, there may be a number of other symptoms.
There are a number of ways that doctors have learned to manage and treat congenital heart defects. Depending on the type of defect, different treatments may be necessary. Some types will require only 1 type of treatment while others will require multiple. Some babies may never experience symptoms after an initial treatment while other people may experience the ramifications their whole life.
A doctor may prescribe medications to control a person's heart rate. Medications may also be prescribed to control blood pressure. Heart surgery may be required to fix structural abnormalities in the heart. Some babies require only 1 surgery while others require multiple. Additionally, adults may require additional surgeries later in life to ensure the proper functioning of the heart.
A variety of different devices may be used to help the heart function as normally as possible. This may mean a pacemaker or small defibrillator to control the beating of the heart. For babies born with rare or severe congenital heart conditions, a heart transplant may be necessary. This is typically only completed if the condition is considered life-threatening, as a heart transplant puts the baby at risk. Adults may also be eligible for a heart transplant later on in life.