Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week

The primary purpose of Congenital Heart Defect Awareness day is to raise awareness of congenital heart defect (CHD) which is actually the most common birth defect. It affects approximately 1% of new-borns with more than 40,000 babies born with heart defects in the United States each year. Every day, a little over 10,800 babies in the US are born and 411 of them have some type of birth defect. Out of the 411 with birth defects, 87 will be born with a congenital heart defect. This number is more than cerebral palsy (27), Down syndrome (12), sickle cell disease (27) and oral/facial clefts (11). This is according to the March of Dimes.

All of the causes for congenital heart defects are still not known. It is a common misconception that the parents have done something wrong causing the malformation of their children’s hearts. This is not usually the case and it is actually seldom the reason for the CHD. Certain illnesses, medication conditions and drugs can increase the risk of a child developing a heart defect but commonly, the doctors don’t know the reason children are born with heart defects.

A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart. It is present at birth. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. The defects can involve the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart, and the arteries and veins near the heart. They can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart. The blood flow can slow down, go in the wrong direction or to the wrong place, or be blocked completely. Some congenital heart defects cause no signs or symptoms. For some people, signs or symptoms occur later in life.

Doctors use a physical exam and special heart tests to diagnose congenital heart defects. They often find severe defects during pregnancy or soon after birth. Many children with congenital heart defects don’t need treatment, but others do. Treatment can include medicines, catheter procedures, surgery, and heart transplants. The treatment depends on the type of the defect, how severe it is, and a child’s age, size, and general health.

Depending on the severity of your congenital heart disease, treatment might be aimed at correcting the congenital heart defect or dealing with complications caused by the defect. Many adults with congenital heart disease believe they’ve either outgrown their condition or that childhood treatment cured them. This might not be true, depending on the type of defect. If you have congenital heart disease, even if you had surgery as a child, you’re at risk of developing complications.

It’s important to have lifelong follow-up care, especially if you had corrective heart surgery. This follow-up care could be as simple as having periodic checkups with your doctor, or it may involve regular screenings for complications. The important thing is to discuss your care plan with your doctor and make sure you follow all of your doctor’s recommendations. Some defects require surgical procedures to restore circulation back to normal and in some cases, multiple surgeries are needed. Intervention cardiology now offers patients minimally invasive alternatives to surgery for some patients.

Celeste Botonakis

On the Nursing Assistant Guides blog, certified medical assistant Celeste Botonakis explores the daily life of a CMA. She'll keep you up-to-date with the latest on what’s happening in the field, and provides tips for those who are interested in becoming a medical or nursing assistant. Celeste has served in the medical field for over six years, and is passionate about helping people. She currently works at CSR Primary Care in Skokie, Illinois. Click here to learn more about Celeste Botonakis and