The week of February 7-14 is National Congenital Heart Defect Week! If you or a loved one has been diagnosed with a Congenital Heart Defect, we encourage you to visit the American Heart Association's website or the Congenital Heart Defect Information Network for more information and resources about living with a Congenital Heart Defect.
What is a Congenital Heart Defect?
Congenital heart defects are conditions that are present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works. Congenital Heart Defects can affect the way blood flows through the heart and out into the rest of the body and can vary from mild (such as a small hole between the chambers of the heart) to severe (such as missing or poorly formed portions of the heart).
What are common signs and symptoms of a Congenital Heart Defect?
Signs and symptoms for congenital heart defects depend on the type of defect and the severity of the particular defect. Some congenital heart defects might have few or no signs or symptoms, but others might cause a baby to have bluish tinted nails or lips or fast or troubled breathing, to tire easily when feeding, or to be very sleepy.
Other symptoms in children:
- Shortness of breath
- Heart murmur
- Under-developing of limbs and muscles
- Poor feeding or growth
- Respiratory infections
How are Congenital Heart Defects diagnosed?
Some congenital heart defects may be diagnosed during pregnancy using a special type of ultrasound called a fetal echocardiogram, which creates pictures of the heart of the fetus. However, some congenital heart defects are not detected until later in life, during childhood or even adulthood. Usually, though, congenital heart defects are diagnosed at birth or shortly thereafter. If a health care provider suspects a congenital heart defect is present, the baby can get several tests (such as blood tests, an X-ray, and an echocardiogram) to confirm the diagnosis.
What is the treatment for Congenital Heart Defects?
Treatment for congenital heart defects depends on the type and severity of the defect present. Some children might get better on their own, but others might need one or more surgeries to repair the heart or surrounding blood vessels. Some children also can be treated without surgery with a procedure called cardiac catheterization. A long tube, called a catheter, is threaded through the blood vessels into the heart where a doctor can take measurements, do tests, or repair the problem.
Should my child wear a medical ID bracelet if he or she has a Congenital Heart Defect?
If your child has a Congenital Heart Defect, he or she should wear a medical ID bracelet at all times. Medical personnel are trained to look for the internationally recognized medical caduceus symbol and are able to treat those with Congenital Heart Defects more appropriately in the event of an emergency. When your child is away from your doctor, family, and friends who understand the condition, a medical ID is essential. Plus, anyone who will act as a caregiver to a child with a Congenital Heart should also wear a medical ID in the event he or she is impaired while taking care of the child.
We recommend engraving your Congenital Heart Defect alert bracelet like this:
FIRST AND LAST NAME
CHD OR MEDICAL CONDITION
MEDICATIONS AND ALLERGIES
IN CASE OF EMERGENCY CONTACT NUMBER
DR. PHONE NUMBER