A congenital heart disease is a defect in the newborn’s heart and vessels. A baby can be born with a hole in the heart or a blocked valve. These are the two most common variety of congenital heart disease. Further there can be problems with the vein or arteries related to the heart. Normal human heart contains four chambers, two upper and two lower called right and left atria and ventricles. Sometimes babies may be born with two or three chambered heart, instead of four. Heart defects are among the most common birth defects. Every one out of 100 live born babies may be born with heart problem. Congenital heart defects are the leading cause of infant deaths.

Congenital heart disease – symptoms

Congenital heart disease give rise to a wide range of symptoms. Commonest symptoms are fast breathing, poor feeding, poor weight gain, bluish discoloration of lips, tongue or nail bed. Sometimes babies may stop feeding altogether and look very sleepy and breathless which are ominous signs. It may so happen that your baby may not have any symptoms described previously and yet your child specialist might hear an abnormal heart sound with a stethoscope.

Common symptoms of a congenital heart defect include:

  • Difficulty breathing. This is usually noticed when the baby is calm and not crying or playing
  • Slow weight gain. When most of a baby’s energy is spent pumping blood into the body, there is little left to feed and grow. Your baby may get tired when feeding and take longer than expected to finish bottles or breastfeed.
  • Sweating, especially in the head during feeing. You may notice that your baby has damp hair and cold, damp skin.
  • Fatigue and agitation. Your baby may be too tired to play and can sleep most of the time.
  • Less urination
  • Bluish color of nail bed and dark lips and tongue

How are they treated?

Some defects improve on their own and may not need treatment and some need medical/surgical attention. Your baby’s treatment will depend on the type of defect.

Medicines can be used to help the heart function better. Medicines can also treat symptoms until the defect is repaired.

Some defects can be corrected in the catheterization laboratory by angiographic technique, which does not require opening the chest. 

If the baby has a large or complex defect, he/she may need one or more open-heart surgeries in their lifetime. Cardiac intervention/Surgery may have to be done very early in life or can wait till the baby grows to a certain age. This is determined by the nature of the defect.

Outcome of congenital heart defects

Most children with corrected congenital heart defects lead normal or near normal lives. However, complications sometimes may arise during the course of treatment.