Congenital heart disease is a general term for a range of birth defects that affect the normal way the heart works.
The term "congenital" means the condition is present from birth.
Congenital heart disease is one of the most common types of birth defect, affecting up to 8 in every 1,000 babies born in the UK.
In most cases, no obvious cause of congenital heart disease is identified. However, some things are known to increase the risk of the condition, including:
Many cases of congenital heart disease are diagnosed before a baby is born during an ultrasound scan in pregnancy. However, it's not always possible to detect congenital heart defects in this way.
Congenital heart disease can have a number of symptoms, particularly in babies and children, including:
These problems are sometimes noticeable soon after birth, although mild defects may not cause any problems until later in life.
There are many types of congenital heart disease and they sometimes occur in combination. Some of the more common defects include:
Read more about the types of congenital heart disease.
Treatment for congenital heart disease usually depends on the defect you or your child has.
Mild defects, such as holes in the heart, often don't need to be treated, as they may improve on their own and may not cause any further problems.
Surgery or interventional procedures are usually required if the defect is significant and causing problems. Modern surgical techniques can often restore most or all of the heart's normal function.
However, people with congenital heart disease often need treatment throughout their life and therefore require specialist review during childhood and adulthood. This is because people with complex heart problems can develop further problems with their heart rhythm or valves over time.
Most surgery and interventional procedures aren't considered to be a cure. The affected person's ability to exercise may be limited and they may need to take extra steps to protect themselves from getting infections.
It's important that a person with heart disease and their parents or carers discuss these issues with their specialist medical team.
If your child has congenital heart disease, your clinical team will pass information about them on to the National Congenital Anomaly and Rare Diseases Registration Service (NCARDRS).
This helps scientists look for better ways to prevent and treat this condition. You can opt out of the register at any time.
The heart is divided into 4 main sections called chambers. These are known as the:
There are also 4 valves controlling how the blood flows through the heart and around the body. These are known as the:
Congenital heart disease can occur if any of these chambers or valves doesn't develop properly while a baby is in the womb.