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5 Things to Know about Congenital Heart Disease

Published on Feb. 09, 2023

Every year, approximately 40,000 babies are born with a congenital heart defect (CHD), making it the most common birth defect in the United States. Whether a child is born with CHD or acquires a cardiac condition, early detection, timely intervention and lifelong care can be lifesaving.

Here are five things our doctors want you to know about CHD:

  1. Congenital heart disease can run in families. CHD can be detected during pregnancy. According to the Centers Disease for Control and Prevention, approximately 3-5% of pregnancies that have a parent or first degree relative with CHD can have a baby with CHD.  As a result, cardiac screening of expectant mothers is recommended in the first trimester of pregnancy. So, if a parent is known to have a CHD, it is essential to disclose this to their care provider to ensure proper screening and management.
  2. Care is available. Treatment for CHD is improving and due to medical advances, there are more adults today living with CHD than ever before. In fact, there are actually now more adults with complex CHD than children!
  3. Innovative techniques have made care much less invasive. Today, many heart conditions can be taken care of through cardiac catheterization or invasive electrophysiology, meaning that it is very possible to avoid open heart surgery. The specialists at Valley Children’s Willson Heart Center provide the most advanced care and have repaired some of the tiniest hearts with just 1/8-inch of a skin puncture. This means no chest incision or scar, no need to stop the heart, no blood transfusion, a shorter hospital stay and rapid recovery.
  4. We recommend vaccinating children with CHD against COVID-19. COVID-19 vaccine-related heart complications are extremely rare and most all result in a full recovery. Heart-related complications following a COVID-19 infection in children who are vaccinated tend to be milder than in unvaccinated children. 
  5. Nutrition and a healthy lifestyle are essential for people living with CHD. Childhood obesity is on the rise and is becoming a leading cause of heart disease in children. Healthy children with heart disease should be allowed to remain active to promote a healthy lifestyle. 

Taking care of a child with heart disease can be challenging and often takes an entire team. Living with a CHD requires lifelong care, so transitional education with regular screenings and follow-up care into adulthood is essential to maintaining your health. It is important to remember to seek the care you need and that you are not alone -- there are more people living with CHD than you think! 

by Dr. Carl Owada, Valley Children's Willson Heart Center Medical Director

About the Willson Heart Center

As leader of heart care in the Central Valley for more than 60 years, Valley Children’s team of pediatric heart and vascular experts regularly diagnose and treat a wide range of heart conditions, such as congenital and acquired heart disease in pediatric patients from before birth to young adulthood. Our team of board-certified, fellowship-trained cardiologists, interventional cardiologists, and cardiothoracic surgeons offers comprehensive care for children with the most common to most complex conditions. While utilizing innovative techniques and readily available equipment, the Willson Heart Center team and other specialty trained physicians, nurses, technologists and staff focuses on one goal – getting and keeping your child well. Learn more about the team at the Willson Heart Center >>