A congenital heart defect (CHD) is a defect in the structure of the heart and great vessels which is present at birth. Many types of heart defects exist, most of which either obstruct blood flow in the heart or vessels near it, or cause blood to flow through the heart in an abnormal pattern. Other defects, such as long QT syndrome, affect the heart's rhythm.

Some Basic Facts:

  • Heart defects are among the most common birth defects and are the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths. Approximately 9 people in 1000 are born with a congenital heart defect.
  • Many defects don't need treatment, but some complex congenital heart defects require medication or surgery.
  • Congenital heart defects are structural problems with the heart present at birth.
  • Congenital heart defects result when a mishap occurs during heart development soon after conception and often before the mother is aware that she is pregnant.
  • Defects range in severity from simple problems, such as "holes" between chambers of the heart, to very severe malformations, such as complete absence of one or more chambers or valves.

Some Basic Questions:

  • Are all heart problems in children congenital?  No, but most are. Heart damage may occur during childhood due to infection and this type of heart disease is called acquired. Who is at risk to have a child with a congenital heart defect?  Anyone can have a child with a congenital heart defect. Out of 1,000 births, nine babies will have some form of congenital heart disorder, most of which are mild.
  • Why do congenital heart defects occur?  Most of the time we do not know. Although the reason defects occur is presumed to be genetic, only a few genes have been discovered that have been linked to the presence of heart defects.
  • How well can people with congenital heart defects function?  Virtually all children with simple defects survive into adulthood. Although exercise capacity may be limited, most people lead normal or nearly normal lives.
  • What is the social/financial impact of congenital heart defects?  Successful treatment requires highly specialized care. Severe congenital heart disease requires extensive financial resources both in and out of the hospital.
  • What is the impact of congenital heart disease on families?  The presence of a serious congenital heart defect often results in an enormous emotional and financial strain on young families at a very vulnerable time. Patient/family education is an important part of successful coping.


Henry was diagnosed before birth with Transposition of the Great Arteries.

  • A heart in which the two main arteries carrying blood away from the heart are reversed.
  • A normal blood pattern carries blood in a cycle: body-heart-lungs-heart-body.
  • When a d-transposition occurs, the blood pathway is impaired because the two arteries are connecting to the wrong chambers in the heart.
  • This means that the blood flow cycle is stuck in either: body–heart –body (without being routed to the lungs for oxygen) or lungs–heart–lungs (without delivering oxygen to the body)
  • Without surgery, the only way to survive this condition temporarily is to have leakages that allow some oxygen-rich blood to cross into the oxygen-poor blood for delivery to the body. A hospital facility can also catheterize a patient until corrective surgery can be performed​