Overview of Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease is an abnormality in the structure of the heart from birth that presents in childhood. Although the term "heart defect" can refer to many different heart problems, it's often used to talk about defects affecting the wall (septum) that divides the two upper or two lower chambers of the heart, or problems with heart valves. Some of the more common defects are:
- Atrial Septal Defect (ASD): Atrial septal defect is a fairly common congenital defect. With ASD, there is a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart (the atria). The hole allows oxygen-rich and oxygen-depleted blood to mix, and overfills the (lower-pressure) right atrium with blood. As a result, too much blood flows into the right ventricle and lungs. Your heart has to work harder, and your lungs can be damaged.
- Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO): Fetuses have a normal opening (called a foramen ovale) between the left and right atria of the heart. But if this opening fails to close naturally soon after birth, the result is an patent (open) foramen ovale, or PFO. Most of the time, this defect doesn't cause significant health problems, and doesn't require treatment. When a PFO is serious enough to cause problems, healthcare providers may recommend a procedure to close the hole.
- Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD): This defect — which may be congenital or a result of damage to the heart — is a hole in the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). With a VSD, oxygen-rich blood from the heart's left ventricle is forced through the hole into the right ventricle. The blood is then pumped back to the lungs — even though it's already been refreshed with oxygen. This is inefficient, and makes your heart work harder.
- Aortic Valve Stenosis or Insufficiency: The aortic valve lets oxygen-rich blood flow from the heart into the aorta (the main artery that distributes blood throughout your body). If this valve is missing one of its "leaflets," over time the valve can become narrowed (aortic valve stenosis) or leaky (insufficiency).
- Pulmonary Valve Stenosis: This involves a narrowed pulmonary valve (the valve that oxygen-depleted blood passes through on its way to the lungs).
Congenital Heart Disease in Depth
Learn more about congenital heart disease from Intermountain's Patient Education Library:
Treatments for Congenital Heart Disease
Your doctor will discuss treatment options with you. Possible treatments for this condition include:
Services and Programs
Service and programs at Intermountain Heart Institute for patients with congenital heart defects: