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Quick Dose: What Is a Congenital Heart Defect?

A congenital heart defect is a heart defect with which you are born. It is the most common birth defect in humans, making up one percent of the population. However, not all congenital heart defects are life-threatening. Due to advances in technology, survival rates have dramatically increased. While 3 in 10 babies born with a heart defect will require surgery or a catheter-based intervention within their first month of life, 97 percent of them survive the initial procedure.

If you were born with a heart defect, your child may be at a higher risk of being born with one too. Always keep your physician up to date with your medical history so they can factor that information into your child’s care plan.

Most congenital heart defects can be detected during a standard prenatal ultrasound. Having an advance diagnosis will allow you and your care team to prepare for your baby’s needs before he or she is born.

Specialized medical care is essential for anyone with a congenital heart defect, whether it be a child or an adult. Children should see a pediatric cardiologist, and adults should see a cardiologist who specializes in adult congenital heart disease. Read more about how to know when your child is ready to transition from pediatric to adult care, or talk to your child’s healthcare provider for guidance.

–  Bradley S. Marino, MD, MPP, MSCE, Professor Pediatrics and Medical Social Sciences, Northwestern University Feinberg School of Medicine; and Heart Center Co-Director, Research and Academic Affairs, Division of Cardiology, Ann & Robert H. Lurie Children’s Hospital of Chicago