Congenital heart disease
Congenital heart diseases are abnormalities in the heart that are present when a baby is born. Heart defects can range from mild to severe.
A person has congenital heart disease for their entire life even if it is repaired in childhood.
The specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute — the leading provider of pediatric heart care in Louisville and Southern Indiana — have skill and experience treating congenital heart disease.
The board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, can provide a precise diagnosis of your child’s congenital heart disease and develop a customized treatment plan for you and your child — for life.
Not all congenital heart diseases need surgery. Our specialists have the experience to know when a problem will resolve itself and which conditions are more complex.
The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has ranked Norton Children’s Heart Institute’s pediatric heart care among the best in the region. With our network of remote diagnostic and treatment services in Kentucky and Southern Indiana, your child can stay close to home for quality care.
Congenital heart defects happen because of incomplete or abnormal development of the baby’s heart during the very early weeks of pregnancy. Some defects are associated with genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome while most congenital heart defect causes are unknown.While they can’t be prevented, many treatments are available for the defects and related health conditions.
Common congenital heart diseases
Common types of congenital heart disease, include:
- Aortic stenosis
- Atrial septal defect (ASD)
- Coarctation of the aorta (COA)
- Atrioventricular canal (AVC) defect
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS)
- Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
- Patent foramen ovale (PFO)
- Pulmonary atresia
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Total anomalous pulmonary venous connection/return (TAPVC or TAPVR)
- Transposition of the great arteries
- Truncus arteriosus
- Ventricular septal defect (VSD)
Congenital heart disease symptoms
Because congenital defects often affect the heart’s ability to pump blood and deliver oxygen to the tissues of the body, they often produce telltale signs, such as:
- A bluish color to the lips, tongue and/or nailbeds (cyanosis)
- An increased breathing rate or difficulty breathing
- Poor appetite or difficulty feeding
- Failure to thrive (weight loss or failure to gain weight)
- Abnormal heart murmur
- Sweating, especially during feedings
- A weaker pulse
If you notice any of these signs in your baby or child, call your doctor right away. If your doctor notices these signs, they may refer you to a pediatric cardiologist — a doctor who specializes in treating heart conditions.
Diagnosing congenital heart disease
Some congenital heart diseases cause serious symptoms right after birth. For those, a baby will go to the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU) at Norton Children’s Hospital or Norton Women’s & Children’s Hospital for immediate evaluation. Other defects might not be diagnosed until the teen years — or even adulthood.
Screening before birth
A fetal echocardiogram (echo) is a specialized type of ultrasound that can diagnose heart conditions while you’re pregnant and as early as 16 to 18 weeks into the pregnancy. Norton Children’s Heart Institute offers fetal echo tests at locations around Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
Your obstetric (OB) physician may order a fetal echo when a possible heart abnormality is seen on a routine pregnancy ultrasound. Fetal echos are also done if another close family member has congenital heart disease or if the mother has a condition, such as diabetes, that might put the baby at increased risk for a heart condition.
At least 24 hours after birth, newborns in the U.S. receive a pulse oximeter screening to check for low oxygen levels that can be a sign of congenital heart disease. This is a simple, painless test in which a sensor is placed on a baby’s skin to estimate how much oxygen is in the baby’s blood.
If the test reveals an issue, treatment can start right away. The screening will find most serious heart defects, but some babies who test normal could still have a heart condition, such as coarctation of the aorta or other defects that don’t directly lower oxygen levels.
Congenital heart disease treatment
Treatments can range widely from medicines, to surgery, to a heart transplantation. More treatments than ever are available for congenital heart disease, and most treatments have a high success rate.
Congenital heart disease doesn’t mean a child can’t lead a healthy, active life. By working with the experienced health care team at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, you will get a treatment plan based on your child’s specific needs to grow and thrive.
Why Norton Children’s Heart Institute?
Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, is a comprehensive pediatric heart surgery, heart failure and heart transplant program serving Kentucky, Southern Indiana and beyond.
The goal of the full-service Norton Children’s Heart Institute is to provide care for the child and the whole family. Our specialists are prepared to repair even the most complex congenital and acquired heart conditions.
Our heart team includes:
- Pediatric cardiothoracic surgeons
- Pediatric transplant surgeons
- Pediatric cardiologists
- Fetal cardiologists
- Adult congenital heart cardiologists
- Heart failure/heart transplant cardiologists
- Pediatric electrophysiologists
- Pediatric cardiac catheterization cardiologists
- Pediatric cardiovascular anesthesiologists
- Pediatric intensive care physicians
- Cardiac critical care nurses
- Critical care pharmacists
- Family support team
- Child life specialists
- Rehabilitation specialists
- Social workers
For more information on services or to schedule an appointment with the Norton Children’s Heart Institute:
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