Frequently Asked Questions

What is the most common birth defect? Congenital Heart Defects are the most common birth defect in America, affecting approximately 1 in 100 or 40,000 newborns each year. Source: Children’s Heart Foundation

What is a congenital heart defect? A congenital heart defect is a malformation of the heart or the arteries/large blood vessels near the heart. Structural problems with the heart present at birth can result when a mishap occurs during heart development soon after conception and often before the mother is aware that she is pregnant. Source: American Heart Association

What prenatal test can detect CHD’s? An echocardiogram can accurately detect many heart defects. This test needs to be performed by a specialized doctor and not an obstetrician. Some heart defects can be detected through routine ultrasound. Source: Little Hearts

What tests are used to diagnose heart defects after birth? Babies and children who are suspected of having a heart defect are usually referred to a pediatric cardiologist. Test that can be performed: Chest X-ray Electrocardiogram - a test that records heart rate patterns Echocardiogram – a special form of ultrasound that uses sound waves to take pictures of the heart Cardiac Catheterization - a thin, flexible tube inserted into the heart to examine for defects, pumping ability, measure blood pressure within the heart and oxygen in the blood. Source: March of Dimes

How many known congenital heart defects are there? There are 35 known distinct heart defects. Source: March of Dimes

What causes CHD? In most cases, scientists do not know what makes a baby's heart develop abnormally, however genetics and environmental factors are identified: Genetics can play a role, such as atrial septal defect (a hole between the upper chambers of the heart) Environmental sources, such as mother contracting a viral infection during first months of pregnancy. Certain medications increase risks: some acne and seizure medications. Source: March of Dimes

How serious is the problem? It is a lifetime affliction, requiring lifelong medical care.

How are congenital heart defects treated? Most heart defects can be corrected or helped with surgery, medicine, or devices, such as artificial valves and pacemakers. Source: Little Hearts

What is the overall mortality rate of CHD patients? CHDs are responsible for one third of all birth defect-related deaths and sadly 20 percent of children who make it through birth will not survive past their first birthday. Source: Childrens Heart Foundation

How well can people with congenital heart defects function? Virtually all children with simple defects survive into adulthood. Although exercise capacity may be limited, most people lead normal or nearly normal lives. Some children with congenital heart disease have developmental delay or other learning difficulties. Source: American Heart Association

Additional Information

For every dollar provided by the national medical funding arm of the American government, the National Institute of Health, only one penny is provided for pediatric research, and only a portion of that penny goes to support research on heart defects, the most common birth defect. Source: Children's Heart Foundation

February 7 – 14th is Congenital Heart Defects Awareness Week, as organized through tchin.org (The Children’s Heart Information Network). An international coalition of families, individuals, non-profit organizations, support groups, and health professionals participate in a campaign to increase public awareness of Congenital Heart Defects and Childhood Heart Disease. To find out how you can participate in the awareness campaign, log on to www.tchin.org/aware. Only by speaking out can we be heard and make a difference!

Participation in competitive athletics is a rewarding experience and is an important part of normal adolescent development. However, for some children competitive sports have the potential to end tragically. - Corrada et al (NEJM 1998) reported the incidence of sudden death in adolescents and young adults (12-35yrs.) is 2.3/100,000 athletes/yr. (2.52 in males and 1.07 in females). - Maron (NEJM 2003) estimate the prevalence at ≤0.3%.

The Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommends the flu vaccine for children who are at increased risk of complications from influenza, including: Children between the ages of 6 months and 5 years & children who have a chronic medical condition, such as asthma, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, sickle cell anemia, HIV/AIDS or kidney disease.