What is meant by the term ‘congenital heart disease’?

A congenital heart defect (CHD), also known as a congenital heart anomaly or congenital heart disease, is a problem in the structure of the heart that is present at birth. Signs and symptoms depend on the specific type of problem. Symptoms can vary from none to life-threatening. When present they may include rapid breathing, bluish skin, poor weight gain, and feeling tired. It does not cause chest pain. Most congenital heart problems do not occur with other diseases. Complications that can result from heart defects include heart failure.

Sometimes CHD improves without treatment. Other defects are so small that they do not require any treatment. Most of the time CHD is serious and requires surgery and/or medications. Medications include diuretics, which aid the body in eliminating water, salts, and digoxin for strengthening the contraction of the heart. This slows the heartbeat and removes some fluid from tissues. Some defects require surgical procedures to restore circulation back to normal and in some cases, multiple surgeries are needed.

Most patients require lifelong specialized cardiac care, first with a pediatric cardiologist and later with an adult congenital cardiologist. There are more than 1.8 million adults living with congenital heart defects.

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