Congenital means 'present from birth', and, therefore, congenital heart disease is a birth defect. Most defects are caused by an incorrect or incomplete development of the heart during the fetal stage. There are many different heart defects which occur, ranging from septal defects, to misplaced blood vessels, but they all cause an imbalance in the amount of blood which passes through the lungs and the amount of blood which passes through the body. When too much blood passes through the lungs some of the blood which passes through the lungs is already oxygenated and the energy of the heart is wasted. When there is insufficient blood flow through the lungs the blood which passes through the body does not have enough oxygen. Both of these imbalances reduce the efficiency and effectiveness of the child's heart and as a result children with congenital heart disease have a hard time doing strenuous activities and tire very easily.
heart disease damages all of the different parts of the heart, including the
ventricles, the atria, the great
vessels, the pulmonary artery, the aorta,
and a combination of defects in one.
Ventricular Septal Defect
hole in the partition between the ventricles remains after embryonic development.
Because the pressure in the left
ventricle is higher than the pressure in the right
ventricle some of the oxygenated
blood from the left ventricle passes through the hole into the right ventricle.
This results in partially oxygenated blood flowing to the lungs instead of to
the rest of the body.
Atrial Septal Defect
A hole in the partition between the atria
remains after embryonic development.
Because the pressure in the left atrium is slightly higher than the pressure
in the right atrium some of the oxygenated blood returning from the lungs
flows through the whole into the right atrium. This results in partly oxygenated
blood flowing to the lungs as opposed to the rest of the body. This condition
is not severe, but many times a corrective operation is done at the age of
4 or 5.
Transposition of the Great Arteries
aorta and pulmonary artery are switched. The pulmonary artery comes out of the
left ventricle and the aorta comes out of the right ventricle. Surgery is performed
to reconnect the vessels correctly.
narrowing in the pulmonary
valve forces the heart muscle to work harder to push blood through. Depending
on the severity of the defect surgery may or may not be required (most of the
time it isn't). Balloon
dilation has been used to widen the gap without the use of surgery.
Coarctation of the Aorta
is a small narrowing of the aorta immediately after branching out to the top
parts of the body. The narrowing restricts blood flow to the lower part of the
Tetralogy of Fallot
This is a combination of four different defects: pulmonary stenosis, ventricular septal defect, a displaced aorta, and a thickened right ventricle wall. Not enough blood passes through the lungs and as a result the blood which circulates through the body is never completely oxygenated. This partly oxygenated blood has a bluish tone and is the reason that babies with this disorder have a bluish complexion (hence the term "blue babies"). Surgery is necessary for this type of defect.