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CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE

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What is

CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE


Congenital heart disease is a more technical term for any heart condition that is present since birth. The term “congenital” comes from two Latin words that mean “from birth”. A simpler term for a congenital heart defect is “a birth defect of the heart”.


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How Common Is

CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE


Congenital heart disease is the most common type of heart disease in children. About 1% of children are born with a birth defect of the heart. Some defects cause symptoms and problems within a few days after a child’s birth. Other defects are much less serious and may only be detected later in childhood.


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What Causes

CONGENITAL HEART DISEASE


Some birth defects of the heart may be associated with birth defects of other systems of the body. Sometimes a group of particular birth defects happen together in a child and this is called a “syndrome”. This comes from the Greek words that mean “running together”. Some birth defects are related to genetic conditions. Other birth defects may rarely run in a family. Most birth defects of the heart have no known cause or prevention. Unless told otherwise by the pediatric cardiologist, the parents of a child with a birth defect of the heart should be reassured that there is nothing that could have been done before the baby’s birth to cause or to prevent the birth defect.


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  • How is a child diagnosed with congenital heart disease?
  • How is a child referred to a pediatric cardiologist?
  • What kind of symptoms or signs?
  • My child has a particular heart condition. Is there more information available?
How is a child diagnosed with congenital heart disease?

A birth defect is diagnosed by a thorough cardiac history and examination, and with additional tests done under the direction of a pediatric cardiologist.

How is a child referred to a pediatric cardiologist?

The child’s pediatrician or family physician will make a referral if the child has particular symptoms or has findings on a physical examination that may be due to heart disease.

What kind of symptoms or signs?

If the heart condition is severe, it may cause symptoms like breathing or feeding difficulty, bluish or pale discoloration, or limited activity. If it is less severe, it will not cause any symptoms but it may cause a murmur that will be heard on routine examination by the child’s physician. Some older children and teenagers may have chest pain, dizziness or fainting, or palpitations, a fluttering feeling of the heart. These symptoms may be related to birth defects of the heart or other heart conditions, but in most cases they are not due to a serious heart problem and they will go away with time. Nevertheless, referral to a pediatric cardiologist may be very helpful and reassuring when the symptoms are very distressing for the child and the child’s family or when the child’s physician has particular concerns related to the child’s heart.

My child has a particular heart condition. Is there more information available?

The American Heart Association website has further information about the most common birth defects of the heart. The information was developed by a group of pediatric cardiologists in conjunction with a national support group of parents of children with congenital heart disease: Click here for more information.

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