Congenital heart disease is a heart condition you are born with. The word congenital means “present at birth.” Congenital heart disease can range from very minor conditions which never cause problems, to more serious conditions that require treatment.
A congenital heart defect happens when the chambers, walls or valves of your heart – or the blood vessels near the heart – don’t develop normally before birth. There are many different types of defects listed below.
1. Holes in the heart (septal defects)
When a baby is born with an abnormal opening in the wall that separates the right and left chambers of the heart (the septum), blood can leak between the chambers instead of flowing normally to the rest of the body. This may cause the heart to become enlarged.
The most common holes in the heart are:
Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is one type of atrial septal defect. The hole between the left and right atria usually closes within the first few years of life. Even if it doesn’t close, the hole may not cause any complications unless you have a second heart defect. PFOs are very common and many people will never know they have one.
2. Obstruction of blood flow
Stenosis is a narrowing or obstruction in heart valves, arteries or veins that affects the flow of blood. Atresia is when a passageway in the body is abnormally shut or has not formed properly. Different types of stenosis and atresia can partly or completely block blood flow in the heart.
Medication in the first few weeks of life can either close (or keep open) the ductus arteriosus. As your baby gets older and if the medication isn’t working, the ductus can be closed off using a cardiac catheterization procedure. This will restore normal circulation.
Other defects between the right and left sides of the heart often co-exist with transposition of the great arteries. An atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect or ductus arteriosus can actually help oxygenated blood circulate to the body.
Children with this condition often have an atrial septal defect as well (see above).
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