Congenital heart disease (or defect) is an abnormality in your heart’s structure that develops before birth. Congenital heart disease can describe more than 30 different problems affecting the heart. The most common include:

  • Heart valve defects, including narrowed or closed valves, which disrupt forward blood flow, or leaky valves that allow blood to leak backwards.
  • Defects in the walls between the atria and ventricles of the heart. Openings between these chambers may allow abnormal mixing of oxygen-rich and oxygen-deficient blood, which means the body would not receive enough oxygen.
  • Heart muscle abnormalities that can lead to heart failure.

Congenital heart disease is the number one birth defect in the United States. Because of medical and surgical advances, most babies with congenital heart defects now survive well into adulthood.

Congenital Heart Disease Symptoms

Symptoms depend on the condition. Although congenital heart disease is present at birth, the symptoms may not appear right away so the problem may not be detected until adulthood.

Some heart defects, especially severe ones, do cause signs and symptoms early on. Symptoms in babies may include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Cyanosis (bluish coloring in the skin, lips and fingernails)
  • Fatigue
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Low blood pressure

Adolescents and adults with congenital heart disease may have additional symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath or trouble breathing
  • Getting tired quickly after activity
  • Dizziness or fainting
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs, abdomen or veins in the neck
  • Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmia)

Congenital Heart Disease Diagnosis

Physicians can often detect and diagnose congenital heart disease before birth during a pregnancy ultrasound. When a defect is found, a pediatric heart doctor, surgeon, and other specialists can be there when the baby is delivered.

Often times though, the congenital heart defect is not detected until symptoms appear later in life. When this happens, your doctor may use a variety of diagnostic tools to evaluate your condition and develop a treatment plan:

Congenital Heart Disease Treatment

The treatments for congenital heart disease vary depending on the condition. Some can be treated with medicine alone. Others need to be treated with one or more heart surgeries. Either way, congenital heart disease requires lifelong care.

At Wake Forest Baptist, we specialize in congenital heart disease management and repair. We work closely with the pediatric cardiology experts at Brenner’s Children’s Hospital to provide comprehensive treatments and ongoing medical management to adults with congenital heart conditions.

Our goal is to help you avoid complications, such as arrhythmia and heart failure, commonly associated with congenital heart disease. The expert cardiologists and cardiothoracic surgeons at the Heart and Vascular Center offer an array of surgical and nonsurgical treatments for adults with congenital heart disease. Treatments may include:

Heart and Vascular Center

Wake Forest Baptist’s Heart and Vascular Center combines cardiology, cardiothoracic surgery and vascular surgery to provide a multidisciplinary team approach to patient- and family-centered care. At the Heart and Vascular Center, our philosophy is clear: patients come first. We offer the latest in technology, devices and medication combined with personalized care, to offer life-changing vascular and heart disease treatments.