Anthony Navone, MD
Marcus Daly Cardiology Services
A service of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital
1200 Westwood Drive
Hamilton, MT 59840
Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week
Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week is observed each year during February
7-14 to promote awareness and education about congenital heart defects
(CHDs). CHDs affect approximately one in 100 births every year in the
United States and are the
most common type of birth defect
. Over 40,000 babies born annually will have CHD. There are 35 different
types of heart birth defects. Over 1.3 million Americans alive today have
some form of congenital heart defect. The word "congenital"
means existing at birth. The heart ailment is a defect or abnormality,
not a disease. A defect results when the heart or blood vessels near the
heart don't develop normally before birth.
A normal heart has valves, arteries and chambers that carry the blood
in a circulatory pattern: body-heart- lungs-heart-body. When all chambers
and valves work correctly, the blood is pumped through the heart, to the
lungs for oxygen, back the heart and out to the body for delivery of oxygen.
When valves, chambers, arteries and veins are malformed, this circulation
pattern can be impaired. Congenital heart defects result in situations
that may or may not be disruptive to a person's circulatory system.
Defects range in severity from simple problems, such as "holes"between
chambers of the heart, to very severe malformations, such as complete
absence of one or more chambers or valves.
Who is at risk to have a child with a congenital heart defect?
Anyone can have a child with a congenital heart defect. Out of 1,000 births,
at least eight babies will have some form of congenital heart disorder,
most of which are mild. If you or other family members have already had
a baby with a heart defect, your risk of having a baby with heart disease
may be higher.
Over 1.3 million Americans alive today have some form of congenital heart
defect. In the United States, about 40,000 children are born with a heart
defect each year. At least eight of every 1,000 infants born each year
have a heart defect.
Causes of Heart Defects:
We don't know the exact cause of most heart defects. Although the
reason defects occur is presumed to be genetic. To date, only a few genes
have been discovered that have been linked to the presence of heart defects.
Some people with congenital heart defects have a specific genetic condition
that can include other health problems. They may or may not know that
they have such a condition. These conditions can vary widely in their
severity. Down's, Noonan's, William's and Turner's syndromes
are such examples of specific genetic conditions associated with congenital
Heart defects can also be caused by something the mother was exposed to
during her pregnancy, such as an infection or a drug.
How can I tell if my baby or child has a congenital heart defect?
Severe heart disease generally becomes evident during the first few months
after birth. Some babies are blue or have very low blood pressure shortly
after birth. Other defects cause breathing difficulties, feeding problems,
or poor weight gain. Minor defects are most often diagnosed on a routine
medical checkup. Minor defects rarely cause symptoms. While most heart
murmurs in children are normal, some may be due to defects.
How is CHD treated?
Most heart defects can be corrected of helped with surgery, medicine,
or devices like heart valves and pacemakers.
How well can people with congenital heart defects function?
Due to advances in medical and surgical therapies, more than 90% of infants
born with a CHD will live to see their 18th birthday. Although exercise
capacity may be limited, most people lead normal or nearly normal lives.
For more complex lesions, limitations are common. Some children with congenital
heart disease have developmental delay or other learning difficulties.
Co-management between CHD specialists and primary care providers is important
to address nutritional needs, exercise intolerance or restrictions, as
well as psychosocial or cognitive issues that may arise during the adolescent
and young adult periods.
American Heart Association and The Children's Heart Foundation combine support.
To help further lifesaving research for congenital heart defects, the
American Heart Association/American Stroke
Association and The Children's Heart Foundation are joining forces
to help tackle the world's number one birth defect.
This new alliance will not only provide grants to further research, but
will also provide an outlet to encourage conversations among parents and
caregivers through the patient Support Network.
The Children's Heart Foundation and American Heart Association both
rely on the support of individuals, corporations and foundations to fund
vital, life-saving research. Please help them in their quest by donating
to them today.
Donations to The Children's Heart Foundation can be made either on-line at
or also can also be mailed to:
The Children's Heart Foundation
PO Box 244
Lincolnshire, IL 60069
Donation stress of the American heart association can also be made on-line at
or by calling at 1-800- AHA-USA1 (1-800- 242-8721).
Questions and or comments regarding this week's health column please
contact, Anthony Navone, MD at Marcus Daly Cardiology Center and the International
Heart Institute, a service of Marcus Daly Memorial Hospital, 1200 Westwood
Drive, Hamilton, MT 59840. Working together to build a healthier community!