Congenital Heart Diseases - Amercian Academy of Special Education Professionals

Congenital Heart Diseases

Congenital heart diseases are abnormalities of the heart's structure and function caused by abnormal or disordered heart development before birth. Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a broad term that can describe a number of different abnormalities affecting the heart. Congenital heart disease is, by definition, present at birth although its effects may not be obvious immediately. In some cases, such as coarctation of the aorta, it may not present itself for many years and a few lesions such as a small ventricular septal defect (VSD) may never cause any problems and are compatible with normal physical activity and a normal life span.

According to the American Heart Association, approximately 35,000 babies are born each year with some type of congenital heart defect. Congenital heart disease is responsible for more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects. Many of these defects need to be followed carefully; though some heal over time, others will require treatmentSome congenital heart diseases can be treated with medication alone, while others require one or multiple surgical interventions. There has been significant improvement in the risk of death from congenital heart disease surgery, from approximately 30% in the 1960s and 1970s to approximately 5% today.

Congenital heart diseases may occur as single defects or in various combinations. VSD is the most commonly diagnosed congenital heart defect (about one-third of all cases) and it is seen almost three times as often as ASD and PDA, which are the next most common.

The majority of congenital heart diseases occur as an isolated defect and are not associated with other diseases. However, they can also be a part of various genetic and chromosomal syndromes, such as Down syndrome, trisomy 13, Turner's syndrome, Marfan syndrome, Noonan syndrome, Ellis-van Creveld syndrome.

Drugs, chemicals, and infections during pregnancy can also cause congenital heart abnormalities. Fetal rubella, maternal alcohol use (fetal alcohol syndrome), and use of retinoic acid (for acne) are some causes of congenital heart disease in an infant.

Congenital Heart Diseases

Congenital heart disease is often divided into two types: those with cyanosis (blue discoloration caused by a relative lack of oxygen) and those without cyanosis. The following lists cover the most common of the congenital heart diseases:

-Cyanotic Congenital Heart Diseases

Cyanotic heart disease is a defect or group of defects in the structure or function of the heart or the great vessels, present at birth, consisting of abnormal blood flow from the right to the left part of the circulatory system (either at the level of the atria, the ventricles, or the great vessels).

-Hypoplastic left heart

Hypoplastic left heart describes the underdevelopment of the left side of the heart (left ventricle, aortic valve, and aorta). The condition is congenital (present at birth).

-Hypoplastic right heart

Hypoplastic left heart describes the underdevelopment of the right side of the heart.The condition is congenital (present at birth).

-Tetralogy of Fallot

A type of heart defect present at birth (congenital) consisting of four different abnormalities. It usually results in insufficiently oxygenated blood being pumped to the body causing cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin).

-Total anomalous pulmonary venous return

Total anomalous pulmonary venous return is a congenital heart disease (present at birth) in which none of the four veins that drain blood from the lungs to the heart is attached to the left atrium (upper chamber of the heart).

-Transposition of the great vessels

Transposition of the great vessels is a congenital heart defect in which the two major vessels that carry blood away from the heart, the aorta, and the pulmonary artery, are switched (transposed).

-Tricuspid atresia

Tricuspid atresia is a type of congenital heart disease in which blood is unable to flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle because the tricuspid valve is missing or abnormally developed.

-Truncus arteriosus

Truncus arteriosus is a rare type of congenital heart disease characterized by a single blood vessel arising from the right and left ventricles, instead of the normal two (pulmonary artery and aorta).

Non-Cyanotic Congenital Heart Diseases

-Aortic stenosis

The aorta is the large artery that originates in the left ventricle (lower chamber) of the heart. Aortic stenosis is the narrowing or obstruction of the heart's aortic valve, which prevents it from opening properly and blocks the flow of blood from the left ventricle to the aorta.

-Atrial septal defect (ASD)

A defect of the upper chambers of the heart (atria) where the wall between the right and left atria does not close completely. This defect is present at birth (congenital).

-Coarctation of the aorta

A birth defect in which the major artery from the heart (the aorta) is narrowed somewhere along its length, most commonly just past the point where the aorta and the subclavian artery meet.

-Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)

Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is a condition where a temporary blood vessel near an unborn baby's heart, the ductus arteriosus, fails to close after birth. (The blood vessel normally closes after birth because it is no longer needed). The word "patent" means open.

-Pulmonic stenosis

Pulmonary valve stenosis is a condition, usually present at birth (congenital), in which outflow of blood from the right ventricle (lower chamber) of the heart is obstructed at the level of the pulmonic valve (the valve which separates the heart from the pulmonary artery).

-Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Ventricular septal defect describes one or more holes in the muscular wall that separates the right and left ventricles of the heart -- the most common congenital (present from birth) heart defect.

Links to Congenital Heart Diseases

  • Overview of congenital heart diseases: An excellent and thorough look at all the necessary information on congenital heart diseases with resources and links.
  • The Children's Heart Foundation: "The Children's Heart Foundation was founded in 1996 and is the country's leading organization solely dedicated to funding congenital heart defect (CHD) research. Our mission is to advance the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of congenital heart defects by funding the most promising research."
  • American Heart Association