If you have been diagnosed with congenital heart disease, it is not the end of your life. Typically a CHD Diagnosis means that your heart has one or more problems with its structure. This defect will have been something you were born with, which is why it is called congenital (meaning born with the defect).
Congenital heart disease is also called a congenital heart defect. This can change the way blood flows through your heart which can be dangerous to your health. Although congenital heart defects might not cause any problems, complex defects can cause life-threatening complications.
Congenital Heart Disease is Manageable
Although 60 years ago a congenital heart disease diagnosis was something to worry about, with advances in diagnosis and treatment, it no longer is. Most early diagnosis has allowed babies with congenital heart disease to live a full life. Having said that, sometimes the signs and symptoms of congenital heart disease are not seen until you are an adult.
If you have congenital heart disease, you will most likely need to go to the doctor throughout your life. You will require care, but it will vary how often from person to person.
Diagnosing Congenital Heart Disease
To diagnose congenital heart disease, your doctor will typically start by doing a physical exam. They will listen to your heart with a stethoscope and ask some questions about your symptoms, medical history, and family history.
Various tests can help diagnose or rule out congenital heart disease. These include:
- Electrocardiogram: Known as an ECG, this is a painless test that records the electrical signals in your heart. An ECG can diagnose a variety of heart problems, not just congenital heart disease. Other diseases diagnosed with an ECG include irregular heartbeats and blocked arteries.
- Chest X-ray: By looking at the images provided in a chest x-ray, your doctor can see the size and shape of your heart.
- Pulse oximetry: By attaching a small sensor to your finger, your doctor can estimate how much oxygen is in your blood.
- Echocardiogram: Using ultrasound, your doctor can create images of the moving heart. This will show how your heart’s chambers and valves are pumping blood through your heart.
- Transesophageal echocardiogram: If your doctor requires a more detailed image of your heart to diagnose your condition, you may need to go through a transesophageal echocardiogram. In this test, a flexible tube is placed down your throat and into your stomach. You must be sedated for this procedure.
- Cardiac CT scan and MRI: These tests create images of your heart and chest. By using a cardiac CT scan, you will see the results of an X-ray. Then, a cardiac MRI will use a magnetic field and radio waves to create images of your heart. These tests are done by lying on a table that slides inside a long tubelike machine.
Diagnosis is Not the End
Having a diagnosis of congenital heart disease either for yourself or your child is not the end of either of your lives. Contact us today to learn more about what steps to take after your CHD diagnosis.