Congenital and Acquired Heart Disease

Congenital and Acquired Heart Disease

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Summary

Congenital heart disease is a heart defect that is present at birth. Acquired heart disease is a problem that develops after birth.

Expanded overview

Congenital heart disease, also known as congenital heart defect, occurs when a baby is born with a problem with the heart valve, chamber, septum (wall between the sides of a heart), or an artery. Acquired heart disease develops after birth and is less common in children than adults.

Types of heart defects

Congenital 

A congenital heart defect will have a variety of impacts on the body, depending on the specific problem. There are many types of congenital defects, including the following commonly diagnosed forms:

Acquired

There are two major types of acquired heart disease in children.

  • Rheumatic heart disease
  • Kawasaki disease

Symptoms

Some of the common symptoms for congenital heart defects are listed below, but these will vary depending on the type of heart defect:

  • Cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin, fingernails and mouth due to lack of oxygen)
  • Heavy or rapid breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Flaring of nostrils
  • Fatigue (tiredness)
  • Swelling in the feet, ankles, abdomen, face or veins in the neck
  • Fainting

Symptoms of Rheumatic heart disease 

  • Chest pain
  • Heart palpatations
  • Shortness of breath
  • Flaring of the nostrils
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs and abdomen
  • Fatigue
Symptoms of Kawasaki disease 
  • Fever
  • Rash
  • Red eyes
  • Swollen hands and feet
  • Red lips and tongue
  • Swollen lymph nodes

​Causes

The exact cause of congenital heart disease is unknown, although it is believed that genetics, certain medical conditions, drug or alcohol abuse during pregnancy, and certain medications may be contributors.

Rheumatic heart disease is caused by rheumatic fever. The exact cause of Kawasaki disease is unknown.

Tests and Diagnosis

The following are tests that are used to diagnose congenital and acquired heart disease. Your child’s doctor may use a combination of these tests:

  • History and physical exam
  • Blood tests
  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): a noninvasive test that records the heart's electrical activity
  • Echocardiogram: a noninvasive test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart
  • Cardiac catheterization: a test that involves passing a thin flexible tube (catheter) through the groin and into the heart

Treatments

Heart disease, whether congenital or acquired, is a critical condition that requires constant oversight by a team of specially-trained caregivers. We work closely with nurses, respiratory therapists and other team members to ensure that your child gets whatever is needed at a moment's notice.

The following are customary treatments for congenital and acquired heart disease. Your child’s doctor may use a combination of these treatment methods:

  • Medications to fight infection, improve blood flow, reduce the heart’s workload, decrease inflammation, and prevent blood clots
  • Cardiac catheterization procedures to repair minor defects
  • Surgery to repair major defects
  • A heart transplant to replace the heart

Resources

Our team of experts are prepared to treat children with any critical care diagnosis or crisis, including congenital or acquired heart disease. At Children's Health, we provide patient-centered care, which means we put your child’s interests at the forefront. We have multiple resources that are designed to not only meet the needs of your child, but also your entire family.
Some of those resources include:

For more information on congenital and acquired heart disease, refer to the following resources:

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