– Congenital heart defects are America’s and every country’s #1 birth defect. Nearly one of every 100 babies is born with a CHD.
– Congenital heart defects are the #1 cause of birth defect related deaths.
– Congenital heart defects are the leading cause of all infant deaths in the United States.
– Each year approximately 40,000 babies are born in the United States with a congenital heart defect.
– Thousands of them will not reach their first birthday and thousands more die before they reach adulthood.
– Each year over 1,000,000 babies are born worldwide with a congenital heart defect. 100,000 of them will not live to see their first birthday and thousands more die before they reach adulthood.
– There are more than 40 different types of congenital heart defects. Little is known about the cause of most of them. There is no known prevention or cure for any of them.
– In the United States, twice as many children die from congenital heart defects each year than from all forms of childhood cancer combined, yet funding for pediatric cancer research is five times higher than funding for CHD.
– Congenital heart defects are common and deadly, yet CHD research is grossly under-funded relative to the prevalence of the disease.
– Of every dollar the government spends on medical funding only a fraction of a penny is directed toward congenital heart defect research.
– The NHLBI has stated that Congenital Heart Defects are a serious and underappreciated global health problem.
What Types of Congenital Heart Problems Are There?
The most common congenital heart problems include:
– Heart valve defects. Narrowing or stenosis of the valves or complete closure that impedes or prevents forward blood flow. Other valve defects include leaky valves that don’t close properly and allow blood to leak backwards.
– Defects in the walls between the atria and ventricles of the heart (atrial and ventricular septal defects). These defects allow abnormal mixing of oxygenated and unoxygenated blood between the right and left sides of the heart.
– Heart muscle abnormalities that can lead to heart failure.
How Does Congenital Heart Disease Affect Children?
There are several congenital heart defects that are detected and treated early in infancy. Most of them are abnormal connections among the veins, and arteries of the heart, and arteries (such as the aortic and pulmonary arteries). 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 to circulate 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 incorrect).
– Coarctation of the aorta (a pinched aorta).
– Heart valve problems.
What Are the Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease in Infants and Children?
The symptoms of congenital heart disease in infants and children include:
– Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, fingernails, and lips).
– Fast breathing and poor feeding.
– Poor weight gain.
– Recurrent lung infections.
– Inability to exercise.
How Is Congenital Heart Defects in Children Treated?
Most congenital heart defects will require surgery or an interventional procedure to repair the problem. Often children with congenital heart disease will also need treatment with medication to improve heart function as well. Children and adults with congenital heart disease should be treated by a cardiologist who specializes in congenital heart disease. Some types of disease may require a team approach as the child grows into an adult.
What Causes Congenital Heart Disease?
In the majority of people, the cause of congenital heart disease is unknown. However, there are some factors that are associated with an increased chance of getting congenital heart disease. These risk factors include:
– Genetic or chromosomal abnormalities in the child such as Down syndrome.
– Taking certain medications or alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy.
– Maternal viral infection, such as rubella (German measles) in the first trimester of pregnancy.
– The risk of having a child with congenital heart disease is higher if a parent or a sibling has a congenital heart defect — the risk increases from eight in 1,000 to 16 in 1,000.
What is Wolff-Parkinson-White Syndrome?
Wolff-Parkinson-White (WPW) syndrome is a rare congenital heart disorder involving irregularities in the electrical system of the heart. In individuals with WPW syndrome, an abnormal alternate electrical pathway (accessory pathway), exists between the atrium and the ventricle, resulting in abnormal heartbeat rhythms (arrhythmias) and faster than normal heartbeats (tachycardia).
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.
How Can Donating Money to Rock for the Heart Help?
Rock for the Heart donations go directly to studies that help doctors better understand congenital heart disease in children and develop safer procedures so they can live a long, healthy life. Ultimately, Rock for the Heart wants to prevent sudden death in infants and children born with these defects.