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    Congenital heart disease

    Congenital heart diseaseis a problem with the heart's structure and function that is present at birth.

    Causes

    Congenital heart disease (CHD) can describe a number of different problems affecting the heart. It is the most common type of birth defect. Congenital heart disease causes more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects.

    Congenital heart disease is often divided into two types: cyanotic (blueskin colorcaused by alack of oxygen) and non-cyanotic. The following lists cover the most common congenital heart diseases:

    Cyanotic:

    • Ebstein's anomaly
    • Hypoplastic left heart
    • Pulmonary atresia
    • Tetralogy of Fallot
    • Total anomalous pulmonary venous return
    • Transposition of the great vessels
    • Tricuspid atresia
    • Truncus arteriosus

    Non-cyanotic:

    • Aortic stenosis
    • Atrial septal defect (ASD)
    • Atrioventricular canal (endocardial cushion defect)
    • Coarctation of the aorta
    • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
    • Pulmonic stenosis
    • Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

    These problems may occur alone or together. Most children with congenital heart disease do not have other types of birth defects. However, heart defects can bepart of genetic and chromosome syndromes. Some of these syndromes may be passed down through families.

    Examples include:

    • DiGeorge syndrome
    • Down syndrome
    • Marfan syndrome
    • Noonan syndrome
    • Trisomy 13
    • Turner syndrome

    Often, no cause for the heart diseasecan be found. Congenital heart diseases continue to be investigated and researched. Drugs such as retinoic acid for acne, chemicals, alcohol, and infections (such as rubella) during pregnancy can contribute to some congenital heart problems.

    Poorly controlled blood sugar in women who have diabetes during pregnancy has also been linked to a high rate of congenital heart defects.

    Symptoms

    Symptoms depend on thecondition. Although congenital heart disease is present at birth, the symptoms may not appear right away.

    Defects such as coarctation of the aorta may not cause problems for many years. Other problems, such as a small ventricular septal defect (VSD), may never cause any problems. Some people with a VSD have a normal activity level and lifespan.

    Exams and Tests

    Most congenital heart defects are found during a pregnancy ultrasound. When a defect is found, a pediatric heart doctor, surgeon, and other specialists can be there when the baby is delivered. Having medical care ready at the deliverycan mean the difference between life and death for some babies.

    Which tests are done on the baby depend on the defect, and the symptoms.

    Treatment

    Which treatment is used, and how well the baby responds to it,depends on the condition. Many defects need to be followed carefully. Some will heal over time, while others will need to be treated.

    Some congenital heart diseases can be treated with medication alone. Others need to be treated with one or more heart surgeries.

    Prevention

    Women who are expecting should get good prenatal care:

    • Avoid alcohol andillegal drugs during pregnancy.
    • Tell your doctor that you are pregnant beforetaking any new medicines.
    • Have ablood test early inyour pregnancy to see if you are immune to rubella. If you are not immune,avoid any possible exposure to rubella and get vaccinated right after delivery.
    • Pregnant women who have diabetes should try to get good control over their blood sugar levels.

    Certain genes may play a role in congenital heart disease. Many family members may be affected. Talk to your health care provider about genetic screening if you have a family history of congenital heart disease.

    References

    Webb GD, Smallhorn JF, Therrien J, Redington AN. Congenital heart disease. In: Bonow RO, Man DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine, 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 65.

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          Tests for Congenital heart disease

          Review Date: 12/5/2011

          Reviewed By: Kurt R. Schumacher, MD, Pediatric Cardiology, University of Michigan Congenital Heart Center, Ann Arbor, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

          The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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