Congenital Heart Disease
How Is Congenital Heart Disease Diagnosed?
Congenital heart disease is often first detected when your doctor hears an abnormal heart sound or heart murmur when listening to your heart.
Depending on the type of murmur your doctor hears, he or she may order further testing such as:
- Echocardiogram or transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE)
- Cardiac catheterization
- Chest X-ray
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
How Is Congenital Heart Disease Treated?
Treatment is based on the severity of the congenital heart disease. Some mild heart defects do not require any treatment. Others can be treated with medications, procedures, or surgery. Most adults with congenital heart disease should be monitored by a heart specialist throughout their lifetime.
How Can I Prevent Endocarditis?
Some people with congenital heart disease are at risk for getting endocarditis, especially if the 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 according to the American Heart Association guidelines before you undergo a procedure that may cause bleeding, such as: dental work, invasive tests (any test that may involve blood or bleeding), and most major or minor surgeries. Check with your doctor about the type and amount of antibiotics that you should take.
Congenital Heart Defects in Children
There are several congenital heart defects that are detected and treated early in infancy. Most of them are abnormal connections among the blood vessels, as well as other vessels of the heart (aorta and pulmonary artery). These abnormal connections can allow unoxygenated blood to flow to the body instead of to the lungs, or allow oxygenated blood to flow to the lungs instead of to the body. They may also cause heart failure. Some examples of congenital heart disease in infants and children include:
- Patent ductus arteriosus (when blood bypasses the lungs, preventing oxygen from circulating throughout the body)
Tetralogy of Fallot (four different heart defects that occur together)
- Transposition of the great vessels (blood from the left side of the heart and right side of the heart intermix because the large artery connections are reversed)
- Coarctation of the aorta (a pinched aorta)
- Heart valve problems