Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth and change the normal flow of blood through the heart. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. They affect 8 out of every 1,000 newborns and are diagnosed in more than 35,000 babies in the U.S. each year.
These defects can involve:
- The interior walls of the heart
- The valves inside the heart
- The arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart or the body
There are many types of congenital heart defects, ranging from simple defects with no symptoms to complex defects with severe, life-threatening symptoms. Simple defects may be easily fixed or require no treatment at all. Complex congenital heart defects require special medical care and/or surgery soon after birth.
The diagnosis and treatment of complex heart defects has greatly improved over the past several decades. As a result, almost all children who have complex heart defects survive to adulthood and can live active, productive lives, although they may continue to need special heart care. They may need to pay special attention to issues such birth control and pregnancy and may be impacted by employment and health insurance concerns.
In the United States, more than 1 million adults are living with congenital heart defects.