Overview, Causes, & Risk Factors
Congenital heart disease, also known as CHD, is any birth defect which affectsthe heart or the large blood vessels. Congenital means that the defect ispresent at birth.
What is going on in the body?
There are many different birth defects that can affect the heart.For example, the valves of the heart may be missing or not work properly.In other cases, there may be holes in the walls of the heart or abnormalconnections between blood vessels and the heart. The defects may be mildand cause no problems. Or they may be life threatening and require surgery hoursafter birth. Some common congenital heart defects include:
What are the causes and risks of the disease?
Many times the cause of CHD is unknown. Known causes ofCHD include:
Symptoms & Signs
What are the signs and symptoms of the disease?
Symptoms of CHD can be present at birth or in early infancyor may only develop later in life. Symptoms depend on the type and severityof the defect. Examples of symptoms and signs of CHD include:
Diagnosis & Tests
How is the disease diagnosed?
The physical exam usually makes the doctor suspect CHD.There are many tests that can help diagnose CHD. These include:
Prevention & Expectations
What can be done to prevent the disease?
Often nothing can be done to prevent CHD. Women ofchildbearing age should make sure they have received all standard vaccines.This can help prevent cases due to certain viral infections during pregnancy,such as rubella.Avoidance of alcohol and substance abuse during pregnancy will preventthose causes of CHD.
What are the long-term effects of the disease?
Small defects may eventually repair themselves andcause no long-term effects. The long-term effects usually dependon how severe the CHD is. Some untreated heart defects can be fatal.Larger defects usually cause more symptoms. Whether or not surgerycan repair the defect will greatly affect the outcome.
Until the defect is corrected, the heart is under a lot of strain.The heart can get larger in size and may not beat in a normal rhythm. Peoplewho have this disease can develop high blood pressure,and their lungs can become congested. Those with heart defects areoften at an increased risk for heart infections, which may be life threatening.
What are the risks to others?
CHD itself is not catching and poses no risk to others.However, infections that cause CHD, such as the rubellavirus, may be contagious. Genetic causes of CHD may be passed on toone’s children. Genetic counselingmay be helpful for some parents.
Treatment & Monitoring
What are the treatments for the disease?
Treatment often involves open heart surgeryto correct the heart defect. Sometimes more than one defect occursat the same time and more than one operation is needed. With certaindefects, medicine may be all that is needed. In others, no treatmentother than observation is needed.
What are the side effects of the treatments?
Surgery to correct a heart defect can be simple or verycomplicated. Side effects of treatment depend on the severity of the defect.Some people recover completely, while others may still have a problem withhigh blood pressureand a very strained heart. The heart may not beat in a normal rhythm.Surgery itself can be very risky and sometimes fatal. Bleeding and infectionmay also occur.
What happens after treatment for the disease?
The person needs time to recover fully after surgery.Antibiotics to help fight infection and other medicines to help the heartmay be given after surgery. Close monitoring of the heart and lungs isneeded. Sometimes, a person will need more surgery later in life.
How is the disease monitored?
Regular visits to the doctor and regular testing are needed.This helps check that the heart is working properly and the lungs remain clear.Any new or worsening symptoms should be reported to the doctor.
Article type: xmedgeneral