Congenital heart disease

Congenital heart disease is a type of heart dysfunction that is present from birth. It can be a congenital malformation of the heart, or something else. Almost every hundredth child is born with some kind of congenital heart disease. These malformations happen to a fetus while it is still in the uterus.

Sometimes children (and their parents) are not even aware of the fact that they have congenital heart disease, because there may be no symptoms until a person is fully grown and developed. At the present time, more than half a million of Americans suffer from congenital heart disease. The factors that lead to congenital heart disease remain indeterminate. Nevertheless, there are a number of influences and factors that are known to contribute to the formation of congenital heart disease. These include the following:

  • Congenital heart disease can be caused by genetic and chromosomal irregularities.
  • The intake of alcohol, drugs and different medications throughout the course of pregnancy can cause congenital heart disease.
  • A child can have congenital heart disease if a mother suffered from a viral infection in the early days of pregnancy.
  • Genetic predisposition inherited by a child can lead to congenital heart disease.

There are many congenital heart defects, such as heart valve defects that can lead to problems with blood flow; atrial and ventricular septal defects that lead to irregular mixing of oxygenated and unoxygenated blood; and heart muscle abnormalities. All of these congenital heart defects can result in heart failure.

Technology today is highly developed, so that such conditions can be discovered even during pregnancy. However, in some cases, these abnormalities are not found until a person is fully grown, because sometimes there are no symptoms of the disease. It is often later in life that adults begin to notice frequent loss of breath, and to experience difficulties during exercise.

Usually, it is enough for a doctor to listen to patient’s heart in order to begin having suspicions that a patient has congenital heart disease. If there is something abnormal about that sound, a doctor will send a patient for further testing. This may be an echocardiogram — a test of the action of the heart using ultrasound waves to produce a visual display, used for the diagnosis or monitoring of heart disease; or transesophageal echocardiogram. Moreover, a doctor may recommend an intravascular ultrasound, cardiac catheterization, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram, magnetic resonance imaging, or positron emission tomography scan.

Some cases of congenital heart disease are not even dangerous, so they do not require any treatment. If the disease is rather severe, it can be treated with the help of various medications, procedures or surgeries.

If a severe case of congenital heart disease is found, than the patient should be monitored by a doctor regularly in order to prevent complications such as endocarditis. Sometimes the surgical repair of the heart and even heart replacement cannot prevent endocarditis.

Therefore, if you suffer from congenital heart disease, you should take it very seriously. First of all, let all your doctors know about that fact prior to any kind of medical procedure, including even basic teeth cleaning. Read the guidelines of the American Heart Association carefully and follow them. This means that you should take antibiotics prophylactically before any procedure that may lead to bleeding. Make sure that the doctor knows that you have congenital heart disease. Consult your heart specialist concerning the dosage of antibiotics. All of these measures will help you to prevent the development of endocarditis.

There are some cases of congenital heart disease that are found in early childhood. If the disease is severe, then a number of different measures may be taken. Severe cases of congenital heart disease may include the irregular connections of veins, heart arteries and aortic and pulmonary arteries. This irregular connection can case oxygenated and unoxygenated blood to mix together. In addition, this condition can lead to heart failure. There are five main types of congenital heart disease in children that can lead to very serious outcomes, including the following:

  • Patent ductus arteriosus. This causes blood to bypass the lungs and prevents oxygen from circulating throughout the body.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot is comprised of four different heart defects that occur at the same time.
  • Transposition of the great vessels. This is a heart defect in which blood from both sides of the heart mix because of the abnormal large artery connections.
  • Coarctation of the aorta. This heart defect is caused by a pinched aorta.
  • Heart valve disorders.

Children with severe congenital heart disease often evince a bluish discoloration of the skin resulting from poor circulation or inadequate oxygenation of the blood, a swift loss of breath during exercise, poor weight gain, various lung infections, and lack of ability to exercise.

All children with congenital heart disease require treatment. In some severe cases, surgery or other procedures may be required; in those that are less severe, medications are prescribed. Overall, every person, young and adult, who suffers from congenital heart disease should be treated and monitored by a heart specialist. This is a very dangerous disease that cannot be underestimated.


Last updated on Apr 23rd, 2009 and filed under Cardiovascular Disorders. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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