Congenital Heart Diseases

    Last updated date: 12-Jun-2023

    Originally Written in English

    Congenital Heart Diseases

    Congenital Heart Diseases

    Congenital heart disease refers to the disorders within the heart's structure that are present from birth. They are the most prevalent type of birth defects and abnormalities in children. These defects can affect the heart's walls, valves, as well as arteries and veins around the heart. 

    Congenital heart diseases also have the potential to interfere with the heart's natural blood circulation. The flow of blood can either slow down, move in a different direction or towards the wrong location, or get completely obstructed. 

    Some children's congenital heart diseases are minor and do not require any treatment. However, others tend to be more complicated and might necessitate multiple surgical procedures over the years. 


    Types of Congenital Heart Diseases 

    There are several types of congenital heart disease which can be categorized into three main groups, including;  

    Heart valve defects: These cause the valves that direct blood flows inside the heart to close or even leak. As a result, it obstructs the capacity of the heart to pump blood properly. 

    Heart wall defects: The heart is made up of the natural walls present between the left and right parts of the heart, as well as the upper and lower chambers. These walls may not develop appropriately, hence making the blood back up into the heart or accumulate in the wrong areas. This abnormality forces the heart to work even harder, leading to increased blood pressure. 

    Blood vessel defects: The major veins and arteries that transport blood towards the heart and back to other body parts might not work properly. This can limit or obstruct blood supply, resulting in a variety of health problems. 


    Signs and Symptoms of Congenital Heart Diseases 

    Congenital heart diseases that are severe typically show up almost immediately after birth or within the early few months of the child’s life. The following are the possible signs and symptoms; 

    • Skin that is pale gray or blue (cyanosis)
    • Breathing rapidly
    • Swelling of the abdomen, legs, or the eyes surrounding areas
    • Shortness of breath, especially when eating; this can result in inadequate weight gain 

    Since the child might not show any signs of the defect, less severe congenital heart diseases may not be detected until later in childhood. The congenital heart disease symptoms that can develop in older children can include; 

    • Getting out of breath easily, especially during exercise or activity
    • Easily getting exhausted when performing a physical activity or exercising 
    • Experiencing dizziness or fainting during physical activity
    • Hands, ankles, or feet swelling


    Causes of Congenital Heart Diseases 

    Doctors and pediatric cardiologists are not certain of the triggers and causes of congenital heart disease in children. However, these abnormalities are sometimes hereditary and run in families. Hence, the likelihood of developing congenital heart diseases increases if a parent or a close family member suffers from the condition. 

    Other factors that can increase the possibility of congenital heart diseases include; 

    • Problems with a child's genes or chromosomes, including Down syndrome: The risk of a child developing a heart defect can increase by about 50% with specific genetic mutations. 
    • Use of certain drugs: If the expectant mother takes certain medications while pregnant, she risks having a child with heart or other birth problems. Isotretinoin, an acne medicine, and valproate-containing anti-seizure medications are examples of such drugs. Therefore, if you are pregnant, the medical provider can change your medication until the baby is born. 
    • Alcohol use, smoking, or drug abuse while pregnant: These can cause congenital heart diseases and other developmental issues in a child. Therefore, if you are expecting a child, stay away from them as much as possible. 
    • Diabetes: The formation and development of the infant's heart may be affected by the mother's diabetes. Gestational diabetes that usually occurs while pregnant should not increase the risk of the infant having heart abnormalities. 
    • Viral infection such as rubella (German measles) during the first trimester of pregnancy: Rubella can cause problems and other difficulties with the child's heart if the mother contracts it while pregnant. Normally, the majority of individuals receive vaccination as children. Therefore, ensure that you inform your doctor if you are pregnant and haven't got a vaccine or are unsure. You will have to wait for about one month after receiving the rubella vaccination before getting pregnant. 


    Congenital Heart Diseases Diagnosis 

    Congenital Heart Diseases Diagnosis 

    If the pediatric cardiologist suspects a heart defect during other routine tests, he or she can order additional tests and procedures. This helps determine if the baby has any congenital heart problems.

    Apart from the regular physical examination, your child may also undergo the following diagnostic tests and procedures; 

    • Fetal echocardiogram

    Through this test, the pediatrician can check if the child has a heart abnormality before delivery. This also helps your doctor plan the child’s treatment more effectively. The physician can perform an ultrasound during the fetal echocardiogram test. The ultrasound sound waves are used to produce an image of the infant's heart.

    • Genetic testing

    Before or even during the pregnancy period, a geneticist will take a little blood sample. This is crucial since if you or any other family member has a defect, the chances of the child developing one can increase by up to 50%. 

    • Electrocardiogram

    This is a noninvasive test that doctors use to record the child's heart's electric activity. It can also aid in the diagnosis of heart abnormalities or heart rhythm disorders. The test involves placing the electrodes attached to a monitor and printer on your child's chest, hence displaying waves that depict the heart’s beating. 

    • X-ray of the chest

    A chest x-ray may be performed on your child to check if the heart is enlarged and whether the lungs have excess blood or fluid. These symptoms could indicate cardiac failure. 

    • Pulse oximetry

    This is the measurement of oxygen saturation in the blood. It’s thus a test that determines the amount of oxygen in the child's bloodstream using a sensor attached to the end of the finger. Having little oxygen in the blood could indicate the presence of a heart disorder. 


    Congenital Heart Diseases Treatment 

    Treatment of congenital heart disease is determined by the type of defect and its severity. Some infants are born with minor heart abnormalities that will eventually repair on their own. Others can have serious defects that may necessitate lengthy treatment. 

    The following treatments may thus be used to address congenital heart disease in babies;  

    • Medications

    Medications can help the heart function more efficiently in a variety of ways. Some of them can also be used in the prevention of blood clots or regulation of an irregular heart rhythm.

    • Implantable cardiac devices

    Devices, such as pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs), can help prevent some complications of congenital heart diseases. An ICD can address serious and fatal abnormal heart pulses, while a pacemaker can assist in regulating an irregular heart rate.  

    • Catheterization procedures

    The physicians can use catheterization procedures to correct certain congenital heart abnormalities without having to open the chest or heart surgically. He or she will then place a tiny tube through a vein in the leg and direct it up towards the heart. When the catheter is in the right location, the doctor will fix the defect with small tools that are threaded via the catheter.  

    • Open heart surgery

    If the catheter techniques fail to correct congenital heart disease effectively, the doctor might recommend open-heart surgery. This procedure can be done to close holes in the heart, fix heart valves, or enlarge blocked and narrowed blood vessels. 

    • Heart transplantation 

    A heart transplant may be required in rare circumstances if a congenital heart abnormality is highly complicated to repair. The heart of the child is removed and replaced with a healthy one from the donor during this treatment. 


    Complications of Congenital Heart Diseases

    Some of the possible complications that may be associated with congenital heart diseases are; 

    • Slow growth and development in children 
    • Congestive heart failure 
    • Heart pulse problems 
    • Stroke 
    • Cyanosis 
    • Emotional problems 


    Congenital Heart Diseases in Adults 

    Adults Congenital Heart Diseases

    Diagnosis and treatment can start soon after birth, childhood, or adulthood, based on the heart defect. Because some diseases do not manifest themselves till the child is an adult, diagnosis and treatment might be delayed. 

    The symptoms of a recently detected congenital heart disease in such circumstances can include the following; 

    • Breathing problems
    • Chest pain 
    • A decreased capacity to exercise
    • Becoming tired easily 

    Treatment of congenital heart disease in adults varies based on the degree of the heart abnormality. Other people merely require keeping an eye on their condition, while some may necessitate drugs and surgery. 

    In certain situations, the abnormalities that were repaired as children can resurface in adulthood, causing complications. The initial remedy may no longer be efficient, or the underlying issue might have gotten worse with time. 



    Congenital heart diseases are present at birth and can damage the structure and function of a baby's heart. They can have an impact on how blood circulates through the heart and out of the body. These defects can range from moderate (a small hole in the heart) to severe (missing or poorly formed sections). 

    Treatments for congenital heart problems have vastly improved in recent decades, and almost all children with cardiac defects now live to adulthood. Some patients will require lifelong treatment for their heart defects. But despite their illness, most people go on to live active and productive lives.