Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital Heart Disease is a defect in the structure of the heart. It is present at birth and can involve the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart and the arteries and veins near the heart. These defects can disrupt the normal blood flow through the heart. These diseases are often diagnosed during pregnancy soon after birth.

Risk Factors

Congenital Heart Disease is the most common type of birth defect, occurring in about one percent of live births in the United States. Unfortunately, doctors often do not know why congenital heart disease occurs. Researchers do know that risk is influenced by family history and genetics, the mother’s health, sex, and exposure during pregnancy to environmental factors, such as smoke or certain medicines.


Symptoms may be different in children and adults. Some common symptoms include:

  • Fatigue
  • Heart murmurs
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Rapid breathing
  • Cyanosis (skin discoloration caused by lack of oxygen in the blood)

Detection and Diagnosis

Sometimes, Congenital Heart Disease is diagnosed during pregnancy or shortly after birth. Other times, it is not diagnosed until well into adulthood. If symptoms present, your doctor may perform a physical examination and diagnostic tests to determine a diagnosis.


Treatment depends on the type and severity of the defect and other health factors of the child. Common treatments include medication, catheterization, and surgery—sometimes within the first year of the child’s life. Regular visits to a cardiologist should be a regular part of a diagnosed patient’s life.