Congenital Heart Defects - Frequently Asked Questions

Dr. Simi Paknikar
Medically Reviewed by Dr. Simi Paknikar, MD
Last Updated on Nov 30, 2019
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Frequently Asked Questions

1. Which doctor should I consult for my unborn child, if my previous baby is diagnosed of having a birth defect?

You can consult a genetic counselor and a pediatric cardiologist.

2. Who are the specialists involved with heart defects?

Pediatric cardiologists specialize in the care of babies and children who have heart problems while cardiac surgeons are specialists who repair heart defects using surgery.

3. What is the prognosis for babies born with congenital heart defects?

Surgery to repair heart defects is required only twenty five percent of children in the United States. Most babies born with a CHD can live up to at least 18 years of age due to advancements in diagnosis and treatments available. However, if the defect is severe, chances of reaching adulthood becomes rarer.

4. Are all types of heart diseases congenital in nature?

No, but most of them are. Rarely, heart damage due to an infection could give rise to heart disease. This is an “acquired” form of the disease as opposed to congenital. Examples are Kawasaki disease and rheumatic fever. Sometimes, children can be born with or acquire heart problems like arrhythmia or irregular heartbeats.

5. Has there been considerable progress in the prognosis of congenital heart defects?

Definitely. The overall mortality calculated as the risk of dying after a congenital heart surgery was about 30% in the 1960s and 1970s whereas it is around 5% now.

6. Can children born with these defects lead a normal life?

Most children with simple defects survive into adulthood and lead normal lives although they may need restrictions in exercises and sports that might cause a strain to their heart. In severe defects, children can present themselves with some developmental delay or other leaning difficulties.

7. What are some of the financial impacts of congenital heart defects on families?

Families undergo a lot of emotional and financial pressure especially if the defect is serious and warrants specialized treatments and post-surgery care. Extensive financial resources are sometimes needed both while in and out of the hospital. Families need some kind of assistance to cope in such circumstances.

8. What is infective endocarditis?

Children with severe heart defects are at a risk for infective endocarditis, that is, an infection of the inner lining of the heart chambers and valves. Regular brushing and regular visits to the dentists are important so as to not allow bacteria to get into the system.

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