Congenital Heart Disease

What is congenital heart disease? 

Congenital heart disease is an abnormality in the heart before one is born. Individuals with congenital heart disase need to be cared for by doctors that specialize in treating their condition. Beaumont's heart and vascular specialists provide leading-edge treatment options and comprehensive care for most complex conditions.

The most common congenital heart problems include:

  • heart valve defects
    • narrowing or stenosis of the valves, a complete closure or leaky valves that don't close propersly
    • bicuspid aortic valve which is characterized by two leaflets instead of the normal three leaflets in the aortic valve
  • defects or holes in the walls between the atria and ventricles of the heart (atrial and ventricular septal defects or patent foramen ovale)
  • heart muscle abnormalities that can lead to heart failure

Risks of Congenital Heart Disease

Most of congenital heart diseases have no known cause. Some heart problems do occur more often in families, so there may be a genetic link to some heart defects.

Some common risk factors include:

  • heredity
  • diabetes
  • medications
  • Rheumatic fever
  • Rubella

Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease can be diagnosed at various stages in life such as before birth, right after birth, during childhood or even at adulthood. A defect may be present without any symptoms at all. Some symptoms of congenital heart disease include:

  • shortness of breath
  • dizziness or fainting
  • abnormal heart rhythms
  • fatigue (tiredness)
  • poor circulation
  • cyanosis (bluish tint to the skin, lips and fingernails)

Diagnosis of Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease can be detected when your doctor hears an abnormal heart sound or heart murmur while listening to your heart. Once they determine what type of murmur exists, they may order further testing to aid in the diagnosis of congenital heart disease such as:

  • electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • echocardiogram or transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
  • chest x-ray
  • cardiac catheterization

Congenital Heart Disease Treatment

Babies with congenital heart diseases are followed by specialists called pediatric cardiologists. These physicians diagnose heart defects and help manage the health of children before and after surgical repair of the heart problem. Specialists who correct heart problems in the operating room are known as pediatric cardiovascular or cardiac surgeons.

The number of adults with congenital heart disease now exceeds the number of pediatric patients. Treatment is based on the type of congenital heart disease diagnosed. Complex types of congenital heart disease need to be treated at a center like Beaumont that specializes in adult congenital heart disease.

For adults, life-long guidance is necessary for planning key life issues such as college, career, employment, insurance, activity, lifestyle, inheritance, family planning, pregnancy, chronic care, disability and end of life. Knowledge about specific congenital heart conditions and expectations for long-term outcomes and potential complications, and risks must be reviewed as part of a successful treatment plan.