Pediatricians are trained to treat all forms of diseases that may affect children. Congenital heart disease is one of such diseases.

What is congenital heart disease?

Congenital heart disease is a malformation of the heart and blood vessels caused by a developmental defect that occurred during embryonic birth. Congenital heart disease is a malfunction of the heart that occurs when blood vessels near the heart do not develop normally before birth.

How many children are affected?

The frequency of congenital heart defects is about 1% of live births. Some are more common in boys: coarctation of the aorta, stenosis of the aorta, transposition of large vessels and interventricular communication. Others are more common in girls: interatrial communication and the ductus arteriosus.

Types of congenital heart disease

There are several types of congenital heart disease. Among the main ones:

  • Pulmonary stenosis: the pulmonary valve is narrowed
  • Pulmonary atresia: the pulmonary valve does not develop adequately and remains closed
  • Aortic valve and aorta are narrowed
  • Aorta is pinched or squeezed
  • Interarticular communication
  • Interventricular communication
  • Persistence of the ductus arteriosus
  • Cyanogenic congenital heart disease
  • The transposition of the great vessels

Causes and risk factors explained by pediatricians

The causes of these malformations are most often unknown. The following have been found to increase the risk factor of congenital heart disease:

  • Malformities heart disease is more common in trisomy 21 and Turner syndrome;
  • Embryopathy (rubella, toxoplasmosis, cytomegalic inclusion diseases, X-rays during pregnancy etc.) are sometimes responsible.
  • Birth defects of the heart can be associated with abnormalities of the kidneys or digestive tract


In a few cases, congenital heart disease is discovered as early as the antenatal ultrasound.

In the neonatal period, congenital heart disease can show itself in two different ways:

  • By isolated refractory hypoxemia (decrease in the level of oxygen in the blood) resulting in cyanosis;
  • By heart failure

Other signs are suggestive later:

  • Breathing discomfort, shortness of breath, exhaustion after bottles
  • Repeated pleuropulmonary respiratory infections
  • Stagnation in height and weight
  • Anorexia
  • Thoracic deformity
  • The fortuitous discovery of a heart murmur

Treatment from pediatricians

Sixty years ago, just 20% of newborns with complex heart defects reached adulthood. Today, more than 90% of them achieve it thanks to advances in treatment.

The treatment of the malformation is surgical. It can be palliative or curative. The current trend is to correct immediately, regardless of age. Most malformations, when possible, are operated on before the age of 4 or 5 (“closed heart” or “open heart”). They aim to restore normal cardiac physiology. In order to operate inside the heart, it must be emptied of its blood and stopped its beating. Surgeons use an artificial heart-lung that establishes an “extracorporeal circulation or ECC”.


There is no way to prevent congenital heart disease. However, in the event that congenital heart disease is already present in a child, prevention of Osler’s bacterial endocarditis is imperative. Children with congenital heart disease should be given antibiotics during all tooth extraction and minor or major surgery. This prevention must be continued even after surgical correction of heart disease (except in cases of AIC closed by direct suture or ligated ductus arteriosus).

Contact Pediatricians in Gastonia NC

Even though congenital heart disease is very common, it’s still a cause of concern as it could be fatal, especially when not detected early. Although the causes have not been determined, some conditions have been found to increase the risk factor. So as a parent, you should be on high alert when your child has these conditions. Also, ensure to be on the lookout for the symptoms associated with the disease.

This is not a disease to be managed at home, so once you observe the symptoms on your child do consult pediatricians, as treatment is would be more effective when it is discovered by pediatricians on time.

Contact  Gastonia Pediatric Associates, your Gastonia area pediatricians, offers top-quality pediatric care.