Conditions Treated

Congenital Heart Disease in Children


Basics of Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart’s structure — interior walls, valves and arteries and veins — that are present at birth. The defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart.

A baby's heart begins to develop at conception, but is completely formed by the eighth week of pregnancy. Congenital heart defects occur during this crucial timeframe, and specific steps must take place for the heart to form correctly. Congenital heart defects often result when one of the crucial steps does not happen at the right time, leaving a hole where a dividing wall should have formed, for example.

Fast Facts of Congenital Heart Disease

  • The American Heart Association estimates that about eight of every 1,000 babies born in the United States have a congenital (present at birth) heart defect.
  • Congenital heart defects are the most common birth defects.

Causes of Congenital Heart Disease

If a child has a congenital heart defect, the mother is often left wondering if she did something wrong during her pregnancy to cause the problem. The truth is, doctors often don’t know why congenital heart defects occur.

Heredity may play a role in some heart defects, which occur more often in certain families. Other heart problems are more likely to occur if a mother took medications, such as anti-seizure medicines or the acne medication isotretinoin during pregnancy. But in the majority of cases, no identifiable reason for a heart defect can be pinpointed. Researchers continue to search for the causes of congenital heart defects.

This program is followed by our CHIEF program. Learn more about CHIEF.

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