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What Is Congenital Heart Disease?

Learn about congenital heart disease from Dr. Dennis Finkielstein in this Howcast video.


So what is congenital heart disease? Well, basically the word congenital means any condition you're born with. In general, the condition arises from a genetic abnormality. That means one we get from our parent's genes. The most common manifestation of congenital heart disease would be a structural problem with the heart, that is, the way the heart's built. And it may show up as a weakened heart muscle, abnormal function of the heart valves, or things in the heart that are positioned not in the usual way.

It is usually recognized early in childhood by either the pediatrician or a pediatrician who refers a child to a pediatric cardiologist. And they often do various types of testing. The most basic of which would be listening to the heart with a stethoscope, and then often followed by an ultrasound of the heart to image the heart and get pictures of how the heart is functioning and how the heart is built.

So congenital heart disease varies. It's a pretty big spectrum. On one side, it can be pretty minor variations of the heart anatomy or function, with which patients can do very well for many, many years. On the other side of the spectrum, it can be life threatening early on, and infants can often not survive unless treated early. Most of that treatment would involve surgical procedures.

On the severe end of the spectrum, most infants would require surgery to help correct the anomaly and help the heart function normally. The good news is that we've made a lot of progress with congenital heart disease, and oftentimes, our young kids with congenital heart disease are growing up to be healthy adults who live long and healthy lives. And that would be a brief overview of congenital heart disease.

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