What is a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD)?

A CHD means a child is born with an abnormally structured heart and/or large vessels. Such hearts may have incomplete or missing parts, may be put together the wrong way, may have holes between chamber partitions or may have narrow or leaky valves or narrow vessels.

There are many types of congenital heart defects, ranging from those that pose relatively small threat to the health of the child to those that require immediate surgery. Many types of CHDs and the surgical procedures your physician may recommend to correct the condition can be found in the Children’s Heart Foundation’s parent resource book It’s My Heart – Chapter 2.

Some CHDs can be detected pre-birth by a Level II ultrasound or by a fetal echocardiogram. After birth, congenital heart disease is often first detected when the doctor hears an abnormal heart sound or heart murmur when listening to the heart. Depending on the type of murmur, he or she may order further testing such as – Echocardiogram, Cardiac catheterization, Chest X-Ray, Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or other diagnostic testing. More information about the diagnostic tests that may be used to identify a heart problem or check the status of a previous surgical procedure can be found in It’s My Heart – Chapter 4.

The warning signs of Congenital Heart Disease in infants and children may include a heart murmur or abnormal heart sound, cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, fingernails and/or lips), fast breathing, poor feeding, poor weight gain, an inability to exercise and excessive sweating.