Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are abnormalities present at birth that can affect the structure and function of the heart. Approximately 1% of infants born in the United States have CHDs. A baby’s heart begins to develop at conception, but is completely formed by eight weeks into the pregnancy. CHDs occur during this crucial first eight weeks of the baby’s development. Specific steps must take place in order for the heart to form correctly. Often, CHDs are a result of one of these crucial steps not happening at the right time, leaving a hole where a dividing wall should have formed or a single blood vessel where two ought to be, for example.
Some CHDs are known to be associated with genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, but the cause of most CHDs is unknown. In these cases, doctors generally assume the cause is some mixture of environmental and inherited (genetic) factors.
Common types of congenital heart defects, which can affect any part of the heart or its surrounding structures, include:
- Atrial septal defects (AS Ds)
- Bicuspid aortic valve disease
- Coarctation of the aorta
- Ebstein’s anomaly
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Transposition of the great arteries
- Ventricular septal defects (Vests)
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS)
While CHDs sometimes go undiagnosed for years — even into adulthood — others cause serious symptoms at birth, requiring the infant to be placed in the hospital’s neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) for immediate evaluation by a cardiologist.
Today there are more treatment options for CHDs than ever before, and most defects are treated successfully. If you suspect that your child has a heart defect, the sooner you get medical attention, the better chance your child will have of making the fullest recovery possible.
About Dr. Campbell
Robert Campbell, MD, is chief of cardiac services and director of cardiology at Children’s Sibley Heart Center. Dr. Campbell earned his medical degree from Emory University, where he also completed a residency in pediatrics. He completed a pediatric cardiology fellowship at the University of Michigan C.S. Mott Children’s Hospital.
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 that provides a continuum of lifesaving care from before birth through adulthood. It is the first comprehensive congenital heart disease program in the South and one of the largest in the country. The program is led by Emory Healthcare cardiologist Wendy Book, MD, Robert Campbell, MD, chief of cardiac services and director of cardiology at Children’s Sibley Heart Center, and Brian Kogon, MD, chief of pediatric cardiothoracic surgery. To schedule an appointment, please call 404-778-7777.