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Congenital Heart Disease Explained

Diagnosis

Doctors may find some problems before a baby is born. Other problems may be found in infants, kids, or adults. The doctor listens to your heartbeat to check your health. If she hears an unusual sound or heart murmur, she might order more tests such as the following:

  • Echocardiogram, which is a type of ultrasound that takes pictures of your heart. There are different kinds, so ask your doctor what you can expect.
  • Cardiac catheterization in which a doctor guides a very thin, flexible tube (called a catheter) through a blood vessel in your arm or leg to reach your heart. The doctor injects dye through the catheter and then uses X-ray videos to see inside your heart.
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG), which measures the heart’s electrical activity
  • MRI which is a scan that lets doctors see the heart’s structure

 

Treatment

Everyone is different. You might not need any treatment. Or you may need medications, surgery, or other procedures. If you have CHD, you’ll need to see a heart specialist on a regular basis for life.

People with congenital heart defects are more likely to have inflammation of the inner layer of their heart (a condition doctors call endocarditis), especially if their heart was repaired or replaced through surgery.

To protect yourself:

  • Tell all doctors and dentists you have congenital heart disease. You may want to carry a card with this information.
  • Call your doctor if you have symptoms of an infection (sore throat, general body aches, fever).
  • Take good care of your teeth and gums to prevent infections. See your dentist for regular visits.
  • Take antibiotics before you have any medical work that may cause bleeding such as dental work and most surgeries. Check with your doctor about the type and amount of antibiotics that you should take.

 

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by James Beckerman, MD, FACC on August 18, 2015
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