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Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects are structural problems in a baby’s heart that do not allow the heart to work properly.

Whenever possible, doctors at Rush treat congenital heart defects with advanced minimally invasive procedures.

These are some of the most common congenital heart defects:

Congenital heart defects: what you should know

  • Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defects.
  • Advanced medical and surgical care allows many babies with congenital heart defects to live longer, healthier lives than they did decades ago.
  • Prenatal ultrasounds and fetal echocardiograms that take images of the fetal heart can detect most types of congenital heart defects. In some cases, your baby’s doctor can diagnose the heart condition at birth or shortly after.
  • There is no known cause for many congenital heart conditions. However, the following factors can increase women's risk of having a baby with heart disease:
    • Maternal diseases (e.g., lupus, diabetes)
    • Family history of having a child with congenital heart disease
    • Late maternal age
    • Exposure to certain medications during pregnancy
    • Pregnancy conceived with artifical reproductive techniques
    • Having a baby with other suspected health problem
  • If you have any of these risk factors, talk to your OB-GYN. Your doctor can address your health problems to help lower your risks and prevent serious complications. Your doctor can also refer you for a fetal echocardiogram with a cardiologist to look at your baby's heart.
  • People with congenital heart defects have an increased risk of developing other heart-related problems, such as arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat) or endocarditis (heart infection). 
  • People born with heart defects face unique challenges when they reach adulthood — including the need for additional surgery and an increased risk of sudden cardiac death. 

Care for congenital heart defects at Rush

While there is not always a cure for congenital heart defects, the following treatments can help your child live a full life with a heart condition:

  • Prenatal diagnosis: Specialists in the Fetal Cardiac Program at Rush provide diagnosis and management of various heart defects and cardiac rhythm disturbances. Early detection of these conditions allows your doctors to provide the best possible care for your baby during and after delivery.
  • Medication: Some conditions, such as fetal arrhythmia, may require medication (given to the mother) during pregnancy.
  • Monitoring: Some congenital heart defects resolve without treatment. Your child will need close monitoring and testing with an experienced cardiologist.
  • Cardiac catherization: During these minimally invasive procedures, a cardiologist will thread a catheter (a long tube) through the blood vessels into the heart to repair a problem.
  • Surgery: The most serious congenital heart defects require open heart reconstructive surgery to treat and/or repair the abnormality.
  • Nutrition counseling: Many babies with congenital heart defects need nutritional support to help them grow and develop normally. Neonatal dietitians at Rush can help you determine the best nutrition plan for your baby.
  • Follow-up care: Your child will need lifelong monitoring and regular follow-up with a cardiologist to help prevent health issues down the road.

Why choose Rush for congenital heart defects care

  • Experts in the Rush Pediatric Congenital Heart Disease Program provide advanced medical, interventional and surgical care and repair of congenital heart defects children of all ages. 
  • The Fetal Cardiac Program at Rush offers prenatal testing and diagnosis for congenital heart defects during your pregnancy. The center’s specialized team will provide you with expert support, evaluation and treatment during your pregnancy and after your baby is born.
  • After fetal cardiologists diagnose your baby with a heart defect, they work closely with the specialized team at the Rush Fetal and Neonatal Medicine Center to provide advanced care to mothers and their babies with heart disease. The fetal and neonatal medicine team coordinate care for women facing high-risk pregnancies.
  • Whenever possible, cardiologists at Rush treat congenital heart defects with minimally invasive procedures that offer less complications, lower risk of infection and quicker recovery than open-heart surgery. 
  • Cardiologists and cardiac surgeons at Rush also use less invasive hybrid procedures or approaches to treat complex heart diseases.
  • Babies with congenital heart defects often need neonatal intensive care when they are born. The Renée Schine Crown Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) at Rush is located next to labor and delivery, allowing neonatal intensive care specialists to care for your child seconds after delivery.

Departments and programs that treat this condition