Congenital Heart Defect (CHD)

What is congenital heart defect (CHD)?

Congenital heart defect (also, congenital heart disease) describes one or more abnormalities with the structure and/or function of the heart that are present at birth. These abnormalities typically affect the way blood flows through the heart. They can cause the blood flow to be slower than normal, go in the wrong direction, be blocked completely, or flow to the wrong place. They can involve valves, heart walls, and/or the arteries and veins near the heart. 
 
Defects develop when the heart and/or the blood vessels around it develop abnormally during pregnancy. Defects can range in severity and complexity. Some may be mild and cause no problems and may not even need treatment. More complex defects can result in life-threatening problems and may require multiple surgeries. Advances in detection and treatment of congenital heart defects have made children, who normally would have died from their CHD, able to live into adulthood. However, it is possible for signs and symptoms to occur in adulthood, even if the CHD was previously treated - which is why lifelong monitoring and treatment are needed.
 
Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect and can describe multiple different problems with the heart that are present at birth. CHDs are divided into two different types: cyanotic (the defect causes a decrease in the amount of oxygen in the body) and non-cyanotic/acyanotic (the defect does not affect the oxygen in the body). In cyanotic defects, people may have a bluish, dusky tint to their skin, lips, and nails due to not enough oxygen-rich blood reaching the tissues of the body. 
 
Some types of cyanotic congenital heart defects include:
 
  • Ebstein’s anomaly 
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome
  • Pulmonary atresia 
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Total anomalous pulmonary venous connection (TAPVC)
  • Tricuspid atresia 
  • Truncus arteriosus 
  • Transposition of the great vessels
 
 
Some types of non-cyanotic congenital heart defects include:
 
  • Aortic valve stenosis (AVS)
  • Atrial septal defect
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Ventricular septal defect
  • Coarctation of the aorta (CoA)
  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
  • Complete atrioventricular canal defect (CAVC)
 
 
In some cases, a child’s congenital heart defect may be a part of a genetic or chromosomal syndrome such as:
 
  • Marfan syndrome
  • DiGeorge syndrome
  • Noonan syndrome
  • Trisomy 13
  • Turner syndrome
 
 
Risk factors
 
  • Rubella: Having rubella during pregnancy can cause problems with the development of your baby’s heart.
  • Medications: Taking certain medications during pregnancy may increase the risk of your child having a congenital heart defect. Medications that are known to contribute to CHD are: thalidomide, angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors, statins, lithium, and isotretinoin. 
  • Diabetes: It is important to control your diabetes (type 1/type 2) if you are pregnant or trying to become pregnant in order to decrease the risk of your child having a congenital heart defect. 
  • Consuming alcohol during pregnancy
  • Smoking during pregnancy
  • Heredity: In some cases, CHD may run in families and be associated with a genetic syndrome. 
 
 
Diagnosis 
CHD can often be detected during pregnancy or soon after birth. Doctors will likely perform a complete medical history and physical exam. Doctors may suspect CHD if they hear a heart murmur during a routine exam - which could indicate abnormal blood flow in the heart. Specialists such as pediatric cardiologists may need to be involved regarding diagnosis and treatment of CHD. 
 
Some diagnostic tests used to detect CHD include:
 
  • Fetal echocardiogram allows the doctor to look for any heart defects before the child is born. An ultrasound is performed and the sound waves from the ultrasound provide a picture of the baby’s heart. 
  • Echocardiogram: may be done to detect CHD after birth. In this case, an ultrasound is also done in order to look at the child’s heart. 
  • Chest X-rays may be taken to see if the heart is enlarged or if the lungs have extra blood/fluid in them which can indicate heart failure. 
  • Electrocardiograms are noninvasive and record the electrical activity of the heart. 
  • Pulse oximetry can be used to measure the amount of oxygen in one’s blood. Decreased oxygen could indicate a heart problem. 
  • Cardiac catheterization is a test that involves inserting a thin tube into a blood vessel at the groin. The tube is guided through it into the heart and gives a detailed view of the heart and any defects. Cardiac catheterization can also be used for treatments. 
  • Cardiovascular magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) is an imaging test used to look at the heart. 
 
 
Treatment
Less complex congenital heart defects may not require treatment, some may even correct themselves with time. More severe and complex defect may require prompt treatment, however. Treatment varies depending on the type of defect the person has and its severity. 
 
Some potential treatments for CHD include:
 
  • Open heart surgery
  • Procedures using catheterization
  • Heart transplant
  • Medications
  • Lifelong monitoring and treatment
  • Infection prevention
 
# CONGENITAL HEART DEFECT (CHD) BY THE NUMBERS #
  • Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting 8 out of every 1,000 newborns
  • Each year in the U.S. more than 35,000 babies are born with a congenital heart defect
  • In the U.S., greater than one million adults are living with a congenital heart defect 
  • 1/2 of all babies who have Down syndrome also have a CHD
 
about congenital heart disease (CHD)
 
 

Sources:
  • "Congenital heart defects in children." Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 17 Jun. 2017. Web. 14 Sep. 2017.
  • “Congenital Heart Defects.” National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, n.d. Web. 14 Sep. 2017. 
  • “What Are Congenital Heart Defects?” National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 01 Jul. 2011. Web. 14 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Congenital Heart Disease.” National Institutes of Health U.S. National Library of Medicine. MedlinePlus, n.d. Web. 14 Sep. 2017.
  • “About Congenital Heart Defects.” American Heart Association, n.d. Web. 14 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Congenital Heart Disease Explained.” WebMD, 24 Aug. 2017. Web. 14 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Congenital heart disease in adults.” Mayo Clinic. Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 06 Apr. 2017. Web. 14 Sep. 2017.
  • “Congenital Heart Defects.” MedicineNet.com, 26 Mar. 2014. Web. 14 Sep. 2017. 
  • “Congenital Heart Defect Types.” Healthwise Incorporated. MyHealth.Alberta.ca, 25 Apr. 2016. Web. 14 Sep. 2017. 
  • “What Causes Congenital Heart Defects?” National Institutes of Health. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, 01 Jul. 2011. Web. 14 Sep. 2017. 

 

From Our Blog: American Heart Month - Heart Disease in Women

1 in every 4 women dies from heart disease each year. It is important to catch the early signs of heart disease, however these signs are different in men and women. Currently, cardiovascular disease (CVD) affects 90% of adults and is the leading cause of death in women.

American heart month - heart disease in women


 

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