Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is another name for a congenital heart defect. The word congenital refers to the fact that the patient is born with the condition. Congenital heart disease develops naturally, it is not associated with lifestyle choices, disease or illness, though the disease may be exacerbated by these choices and/or conditions. There are multiple conditions which fall under the category of Congenital Heart Disease, ranging from mild to life-threatening. In terms of birth defects, congenital heart disease is the most common. About eight in every 1,000 infants are born with a congenital heart condition.
Types of CHD
Congenital Heart Disease is characterized as a condition where the heart of parts of the heart are abnormal and which may impede or change the natural blood flow in the heart. The change in blood flow is due to improper growth and development of the heart or parts of it in utero. Some common types of congenital heart disease include:
- Septal Defects: These defects are named because they affect the septum, or the wall between the right and left sides of the heart. If there is a hole in this wall it is called a septal defect. The wall is in place to prevent blood on one side of the heart from mixing with blood on the other side of the heart. The hole allows blood to mix, causing heart problems.
- Atrial Septal Defect: Often referred to as ASD, this condition is a hole in the portion of the septum between the right and left atrium (the upper chambers of the heart.)
- Ventricular Septal Defect: Also called VSD, this condition is the same as ASD, but the hole is in the portion of the septum between the ventricles.
- Valve Disorder: Three common valve disorders are stenosis, atresia and regurgitation. Many valve conditions are a result of a narrowing of the valves. When valves are narrow – blood flow is impeded. The pulmonary valve is most commonly affected.
Multiple or Complex Congenital Heart Conditions
There are times when infants are born with multiple or complex congenital heart conditions. In some cases, surgery is required to fix a severe condition or multiple conditions with a compounding effect. Tetralogy of Fallot is the most common complex condition. It consists of four congenital heart defects. Treatments for the condition include open heart surgery completed during infancy.
Congenital Heart Disease is something parents cannot predict or prevent. Many conditions are mild and correct themselves over time or have little or no impact on health or lifespan; other conditions require medical attention.
Some congenital heart defects can be diagnosed prior to birth, with ultrasound or a special ultrasound test called "echocardiography", other times the defect is diagnosed after birth.