Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are problems with the heart’s structure. They are those that are present at birth. Common examples include holes in the inside walls of the heart, as well as narrowed or leaky valves. In severe forms of CHDs, blood vessels or heart chambers may be missing, poorly formed, or in the wrong place. It is now believed that the number of adults living with CHDs is at least equal to, if not greater than, the number of children living with CHDs.
- CHDs are the most common birth defects. It occurs in around 1% of births.
- Around 100-200 deaths are due to unrecognized heart disease each year.
- 40,000 infants in the U.S. are born each year with CHDs.
- CHDs are as common as autism.
- CHDs are twenty-five times more common than cystic fibrosis.
- It is thought that two to three million individuals are thought to be living in the United States with CHDs.
- There is no system to track CHDs after childhood, this means perfect estimates are not available.
Health impacts of congenital heart defects
- Most common cause of infant death due to birth defects.
- 25% of children born with CHDs will need heart surgery to live.
- Over 85% of babies born with a CHD live to age 18 or older.
- Surgery is often not a cure for CHDs.
- People with CHDs face a life-long risk of health problems
- People with CHDs are now living long enough to develop illnesses, like high blood pressure, obesity, and other heart diseases.
- CHDs are now the most common heart problem in pregnant women.
Causes of congenital heart defects
- Most causes of CHDs are unknown.
- 15-20% of all CHDs are related to known genetic conditions.
- Most CHDs are thought to be caused by a combination of genes and other risk factors
- Environmental exposures and maternal conditions can cause CHDs, but the heart is formed so early in pregnancy, the damage may occur before most women know they are pregnant.
- Environmental exposures that may be related to the risk of having a CHD include the mother’s diet and certain chemicals and medications.
- Maternal diabetes is a recognized cause of CHDs. Maternal obesity, smoking, and some infections also may raise the risk of having a baby with CHD.
- The risk of having a CHD is increased by 3 times if the mother, father, or sibling has a CHD.