Congenital Heart Defects
An Anatomical Abnormality
Prevalence: Congenital heart defects occur in about 1 in 110 births and have a variety of causes, including genetic abnormalities or a mistake during fetal development. Some may be so mild that they have no visible symptoms.
Detection: In such cases the doctor usually discovers the problem when she detects an abnormal heart sound -- called a murmur -- during a routine examination. Some murmurs are meaningless; further tests are usually required to determine whether your baby's is due to a heart defect.
Serious heart defects are outwardly detectable and, if left untreated, can cause congestive heart failure, in which the heart becomes incapable of pumping enough blood to the lungs or other parts of the body.
- Rapid heartbeat
- Breathing difficulties
- Feeding problems (which result in inadequate weight gain)
- Swelling in the legs, abdomen, or about the eyes
- Pale grey or bluish skin
Treatment: Most heart defects can be corrected or at least improved through surgery, drugs, or a mechanical aid like a pacemaker.