Congenital heart disease or congenital heart defect (CHD) is a cardiovascular malformation caused by abnormal cardiac vascular development during the fetal period, and it is the most common heart disease among children. The fetal heart starts beating at 5 weeks of gestation in humans, and the heart is not fully formed until 12 weeks. The composition of the heart is determined by genes. Gene mutations can lead to abnormal heart development. At present, studies have shown that only a few genes can cause congenital heart disease, but most of the causes are unknown, and only some risk factors for the disease, such as the environment, are known.
There are approximately 35 different types of CHD. Some are mild, while others are severe.
Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
An ASD is a hole in the wall between the upper chambers, or the right and left atria of your heart. A hole here lets blood from the left atrium mix with blood in the right atrium.
Some ASDs close on their own. Your doctor may need to repair a medium or large ASD with open-heart surgery or ASD occlusion procedure.
Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)
A VSD is a hole in the part of your septum that separates your heart’s lower chambers, or ventricles. If you have a VSD, blood gets pumped back to your lungs instead of to your body.
A small VSD may also close on its own. But if yours is larger, you may need surgery or VSD occlusion procedure.
Patent Ductus Arteriosus (PDA)
Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) is when the opening between the two major blood vessels originating from the heart remains open. This opening, the ductus arteriosus, is a normal part of the fetal circulatory system before birth and usually closes quickly after birth. But if this opening remains open, it is called a patent ductus arteriosus. A small PDA may not require treatment unless yours if large when a surgery or PDA occlusion procedure is needed.
Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
Patent foramen ovale is when the small hole in the heart does not close normally after birth. During fetal development, a small valve-like opening, the foramen ovale, usually develops in the wall between the left and right upper chambers of the heart (atrium). The foramen ovale usually closes during infancy. If the foramen ovale does not close, the foramen ovale is patent. A surgery or PFO occlusion procedure can be applied to treat PFO.
The symptoms of congenital heart defects depend on the type and severity of the heart defects. Patients with mild congenital heart defects will usually have few symptoms or no symptoms. For patients who have more severe defects, however, the following symptoms may be observed:
Bluish tint of the skin, lips, fingernails, and inner lining of the mouth (cyanosis)
Rapid breathing / difficulty breathing
Not growing or gaining weight properly
Congenital heart defect patients with only mild heart defects who have no symptoms and follow a normal growth pattern will normally not require treatment. However, patients who experience severe symptoms, such as a heart failure, shortness of breath, or becoming easily tired, will likely need to take medication to manage their symptoms. However, if the symptoms do not improve with treatment, then intervention therapy or heart surgery to correct the defects will be required. Certain types of defects, such as a hole in the heart wall can be treated using an occlusion procedure so that an open heart surgery can be avoided. During the procedure, a specially designed occluder can be mounted on the tip of a catheter. This catheter can be inserted into a large blood vessel, usually from the groin, and sneaked into the heart to the site of the defect. Then, the occluder will be deployed to close off the defect.
Lepu Medical is dedicated to helping people with congenital heart diseases and bringing hope to their lives. Click here to learn more about our story of CHD treatment.