Congenital heart disease

Congenital heart disease differs from other heart defects in that it is present from birth.  At least eight in every 1,000 babies are born with a heart or circulatory condition and only about a quarter of these are detected by ultrasound scans.  Sometimes, a congenital heart condition will not be found until later in the child’s life.

Some types of congenital heart defects cause no problems to the child, while many can often be treated successfully.  Before the 1960s, when open-heart surgery wasn’t carried out on children, many who had congenital heart disease died in infancy.

Common examples of congenital heart diseases are:

  • openings in the internal wall of the heart
  • narrowing of the main heart valves (pulmonary valve stenosis)
  • failure of a blood channel, used only before the baby is born, to close at the right time (patent ductus arteriosus)
  • narrowing of the main artery of the body (aortic stenosis)
  • blockages in the pathways between the heart and the lungs
  • abnormal connections between the chambers and vessels of the heart (ASD - atrial septal defect and VSD - ventricular septal defect)

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