What Causes Congenital Heart Disease?

Congenital heartCongenital heart defects (CHDs) are the most common type of birth defect, affecting about 1% of infants born in the United States. While doctors can sometimes pinpoint the likely cause of a particular defect, most of the time the cause is uncertain.

Most CHDs are the isolated type, meaning that they occur alone without other birth defects. In most isolated CHDs, the cause cannot be determined and is generally assumed to be a combination of genetic (inherited) and environmental factors.

There are a number of genetic birth defects that often occur together with CHDs, including Down syndrome, Turner syndrome, Marfan syndrome and Williams syndrome. In these cases, a defect in the infant’s DNA causes the heart to develop improperly. For instance, about half of babies born with Down syndrome also have a CHD, most often a defect in the wall between the left and right sides of the heart (atrioventricular septal defect).

A mother’s exposure to certain substances during pregnancy can increase the risk for CHDs. Some medications increase risk, including certain acne and seizure medications. Environmental exposures can be more difficult to pinpoint but may contribute as well. A mother ingesting too much alcohol during pregnancy can also increase the risk of her infant being born with a heart defect.

In addition to environmental exposures, some health issues in pregnant women can play a role in increasing the risk for CHDs. These include infections such as rubella, as well as chronic conditions that are not under control, such as diabetes and lupus.

The Congenital Heart Center of Georgia was created to bridge the gap between pediatric and adult care for people with CHDs. If you were born with a CHD and haven’t been evaluated regularly by a cardiologist, you were recently diagnosed with a CHD or you have a child who will be transitioning into adult care in the near future, learn more about the Congenital Heart Center of Georgia and make an appointment today.

About Dr. Rodriguez

Fred Rodriguez, MDFred Rodriguez, MD, is a pediatric cardiologist who practices pediatric cardiology at the Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Sibley Heart Center and adult congenital heart disease at the Emory Clinic and Emory University Hospital. Dr. Rodriguez earned his medical degree from the Louisiana State University at New Orleans School of Medicine, where he also completed his combined residency in both internal medicine and pediatrics. Following his residency, he completed a cardiology fellowship at Texas Children’s Hospital in Houston, with additional training in adult congenital heart disease. He is board certified in pediatrics, pediatric cardiology and internal medicine.

About the Congenital Heart Center of Georgia

The Congenital Heart Center of Georgia is a collaboration between Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory Healthcare. The Congenital Heart Center of Georgia is a comprehensive program for children and adults with congenital heart disease (CHD) that provides a continuum of lifesaving care from before birth through adulthood. It is the first comprehensive CHD program in the South and one of the largest in the country. The program is led by Emory Healthcare cardiologist Wendy Book, MD, along with Robert Campbell, MD, chief of cardiac services and director of cardiology at Children’s Sibley Heart Center. To schedule an appointment, please call 404-778-7777.

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