Congenital Heart Defects - Topic Overview
most cases, congenital heart defects are found at birth or during a baby's
first few months.
You may find that your baby has trouble eating
or isn't gaining weight. Or your doctor may hear abnormal sounds or murmurs in
your baby's heart during a routine checkup. The first sign may be a bluish tint
to the baby's skin.
After a doctor suspects a heart defect, your
baby will probably need several tests, such as blood tests, an
echocardiogram, and possibly a heart catheterization.
The doctor may use the echocardiogram to check blood flow through your baby's
heart and to look at the valves, thickness, and shape of the heart. A heart
catheterization measures blood pressure in the heart and heart arteries and can
show how well the heart is pumping.
Having your child go through
this testing can be very scary. Don't be afraid to ask as many questions as
you need to ask to feel comfortable. Talk to your doctor and the nurses. And talk to the
people who are doing the testing.
Some defects get better on
their own and may not need treatment. Your baby's or child's treatment will
depend on the type of defect.
Medicines may be used to help the
heart work better. Medicines may also treat symptoms until the defect is
Some defects can be fixed by using a thin, flexible tube called a catheter. This procedure
doesn't require opening up the chest. The
doctor threads the catheter through a blood
vessel—typically in the groin—and into the heart. There, he or she uses the catheter to close holes or
open narrowed blood vessels or valves.
If a baby has a large or
complex defect, the baby may need one or more open-heart surgeries. The surgery
may be done right away, done over several steps, or delayed until the baby is
stronger. Sometimes surgery is delayed if the baby is premature or until the
baby is strong enough to handle the surgery. In some cases, the child may need
different types of surgery over time as he or she grows.
cases, a heart defect may be so serious that a heart transplant is