What is Congenital Heart Disease?


The most common type of birth defect is the — “congenital heart disease.” The congenital heart disease is also termed as — “congenital heart defects”. Studies showed that approximately 1 in every 100 babies born in the United States are affected by congenital heart disease.  According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), at present, there are about one million children and one million adults in the United States who were born with congenital heart defects. Stress has been known to trigger or aggravate their condition.

This congenital defect is related to the defective or abnormal structure of the heart that was present at birth. The heart defects may include the valves of the heart, the walls of the heart, and the blood vessels (veins and arteries) near the heart. As a result of these defects, the normal flow of blood through the heart may be disrupted. As an effect, the blood flow may become slower, it may flow in the wrong place or go to the wrong direction, or maybe blocked fully.

Studies said that about 25% of people with congenital heart disease may require surgical procedures during the baby’s first year of life. As to lifespan, there is a higher chance of more than 90% of children with congenital heart disease live up to their adult life. As to statistics, more than 3 million children and adults are living with congenital heart defects

Types of Congenital Heart Disease

There are several types of congenital heart defects. Heart defects may vary from simple asymptomatic types to more complicated conditions that may cause serious fatal symptoms.

  • CYANOTIC CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE. This congenital defect causes the baby to appear blue at birth and this is the result of deoxygenated blood that flows out into the body.

There are several types of cyanotic heart defects that may require surgical procedures within the first year of the child.  For severe cases, multiple surgical procedures were needed for the proper functioning of the heart, and these may include:

  • Truncus Arteriosus — the defect is from the blood vessels coming out of the heart that fails to separate before birth.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot — a heart defect that happens when a baby is born with four different heart conditions like –
  1. Overriding Aorta — aorta is positioned directly over a ventricular septal defect, instead of over the left ventricle
  2. Ventricular Septal Defect — a hole between the right and left chambers of the heart.
  3. Ventricular Hypertrophy — the right ventricle in the heart chamber is thickened.
  4. Pulmonary Stenosis — the main blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs becomes constricted.
  • Tricuspid Atresia — the tricuspid valve failed to form.
  • Transposition of the Great Arteries — a rare congenital defect wherein the great arteries are transposed and this involves the aorta and pulmonary arteries.
  • Total Anomalous Pulmonary Venous Connection — a rare malformation that occurs when the pulmonary veins abnormally connect to the right atrium instead of the left atrium.
  • Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome — this is the most complicated of all congenital heart disease. “It is among the most severe but treatable congenital heart defects,” according to an expert cardiologist.

The congenital condition that involves four defects affecting the left side  of the heart, namely :

  1. Aorta — a supposedly large artery that leads from the heart to the body appears to be too tiny or underdeveloped.
  2. Aortic Valve — the one that regulates blood flow from the heart to the aorta appears to be too short or not at all developed.
  3. Mitral Valve — the valve that is supposed to control the blood flow between the two left chambers of the heart is not developed or appears to be too little.
  4. Left Ventricle — the heart chamber that pumps out the blood to the body appears to be too small.
  • ACYANOTIC OR LESS ACUTE CONGENITAL HEART DEFECTS. The heart defects were less severe and less dangerous but it can still impact the health status of the child. These kinds of heart defects at birth are capable of self-healing or with limited interventions and surgery is not required during the first year of life.

These involve minor heart defects, namely:

  1. Bicuspid Aortic Valves — the aortic valve appears to have only two leaflets, instead of three. The aorta is the major blood vessel that brings oxygenated blood to the body. The aortic valve is the one that regulates the blood flow from the heart into the aorta.
  2. Atrial Septal Defects — a congenital defect that occurs as a hole in the wall (septum) that separates the upper chambers (atria) from left to right side of the heart. The hole in the heart may vary in size and may sometimes require a surgical procedure to close it or there are cases that the hole may close on its own.
  3. Ventricular Septal Defects — the heart defect occurs as a hole in the wall (septum) that divides the lower chamber (ventricles) of the heart permitting the blood to pass through from left to right side of the heart.
  • DUCTAL DEPENDENT CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE. Babies are born with a small hole in the heart called – “Ductus Arteriosus.” The small hole usually closes on its own during the first few days of the life of the child. In some other cases, the hole may not close and remains open for the entire life – “Patent Ductus Arteriosus.”
  • CRITICAL CONGENITAL DISEASE. Experts said that about 25% of congenital heart defects are considered to be critical, and that would entail a surgical procedure within the first year of the child, like hypoplastic left heart syndrome.

Signs and Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease

The defects of the heart may be noticed during pregnancy or right after birth for more severe cases.  But for some, symptoms may only develop and manifest upon reaching adolescent years or early adults. The signs and symptoms of congenital heart disease may vary since the condition refers to numerous types of heart defects and may include the following:

  • Vision problems
  • Cyanosis — a bluish tinge to the skin, fingernails, and lips.
  • Shortness of breath — observed in babies during feeding but for older children and adults during exercise.
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heartbeat
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Swelling in hands and feet
  • Swelling around the eyes, abdomen, and legs
  • Fainting during exercise
  • Fatigue and extreme tiredness

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