Congenital heart disease refers to a range of heart defects that are present at birth, wherein there is a malformation in one or more structures of the heart or blood vessels.
These defects may involve the interior walls of the heart, the valves inside the heart, and the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart or the body. Congenital heart defects can affect 8 out of every 1,000 children and causes more deaths in the first year of life than any other birth defects.
Aortic aneurysm can develop in anyone, but males over 60 years old have a higher risk of developing the condition. Other risk factors include high blood pressure, smoking, family history, high cholesterol, emphysema, and obesity.
Most often, there is no known cause for congenital heart disease. However, there are some factors that are associated with an increased risk of getting congenital heart disease. Family history plays a part. The risk of having a child with congenital heart disease is higher if a parent has a congenital heart defect; Down syndrome; taking certain medications, such as retinoic acid for acne, or alcohol or drug abuse during pregnancy; maternal viral infection, such as German measles, in the first trimester of pregnancy; and poorly managed blood sugar in women who have diabetes during pregnancy.
In unborn child, most congenital heart diseases are diagnosed during a routine pregnancy ultrasound. When this happens, a paediatric heart doctor should be present when the baby is delivered.
In adults, congenital heart disease is often diagnosed when your doctor hears an abnormal heart sound when listening to your heart. The doctor may request for further screening such as chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG), echocardiogram or transesophageal echocardiogram (TEE), cardiac catheterization, and MRI.
Treatment of congenital heart disease is usually based on the severity of the condition. Some are not serious, can be treated with medication alone, and can heal over time. Others require surgery, catheterisation or transplant to repair the defects. Children and adults with congenital heart disease should be treated and monitored by a heart specialist throughout their lives to prevent complications.
Medications commonly prescribed to people with congenital heart defects include angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors to block the enzyme in the body that causes blood vessels to constrict, antiarrhythmics to regulate the heart rhythm, antibiotics to prevent endocarditis, anticoagulants to reduce the blood clots, beta-blockers to slow the heartbeat and lower blood pressure, digoxin to improve the squeezing strength of the heart, diuretics to reduce the amount of water and salt in the body, and vasodilators to relax the muscles of the blood vessels.