Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week: 5 common types of congenital heart defects

Congenital heart defect is one of the most frequently diagnosed congenital disorders. On Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Day, find out more about the common types of congenital heart defects.
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Know the common types of congenital heart defects. Image courtesy: Freepik
Natalia Ningthoujam Published: 13 Feb 2024, 01:15 pm IST
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There are times when the heart or blood vessels around it don’t develop properly before birth. Congenital heart defects, which are conditions present at birth, can affect the structure of an infant’s heart and the way it functions. These defects can vary in severity, but early diagnosis and intervention can help to manage congenital heart defects. Know about the common types of congenital heart defects.

What is a congenital heart defect?

A congenital heart defect is a structural abnormality of the heart present at birth. It can involve the heart’s walls, valves, or blood vessels, disrupting normal blood flow, says interventional cardiologist Dr Abhijit Borse.

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Congenital heart defect is one of the most frequently diagnosed congenital disorders. Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

According to a 2020 research published in the Medicine journal, it is one of the most frequently diagnosed congenital disorders. It affects about 0.8 percent to 1.2 percent of live births in the world.

What are common types of congenital heart defects?

Common types of congenital heart defects include atrial septal defects (ASD), ventricular septal defects (VSD), atrioventricular septal defects (AVSD), Tetralogy of Fallot, and coarctation of the aorta.

Each type of congenital heart defect involves specific abnormalities in the heart’s structure, impacting its function and blood circulation. Here are some of the common types of congenital heart defects –

1. Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

It is a hole in the wall (septum) between the heart’s upper chambers (atria), explains the expert. The severity is mild to moderate. Many ASDs don’t cause significant symptoms, but larger ones may lead to increased blood flow in the lungs.

2. Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

It is a hole in the septum between the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). Small VSDs may close on their own, while larger ones may lead to increased pressure in the lungs.

3. Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD)

It is a combination of ASD and VSD, often involving abnormalities of the valves between the atria and ventricles. Sometimes, it can be severe, requiring surgical correction.

4. Tetralogy of fallot

It is a combination of four heart defects, including a VSD, pulmonary stenosis, an overriding aorta, and right ventricular hypertrophy, says Dr Borse. Surgical intervention is necessary in such cases, usually in infancy, to correct the defects.

5. Coarctation of the aorta

In this defect, there is narrowing of the aorta, the major blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the body. It may lead to high blood pressure and increased workload on the heart. Surgical correction is often required.

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Regular medical monitoring and intervention are crucial for managing these conditions effectively.

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If a parent has a congenital heart defect, there may be an increased risk for their child Image courtesy: Adobe Stock

What are the causes of congenital heart defects?

The exact causes of congenital heart defects are often not fully understood, but various factors may contribute:

  • Inherited genetic abnormalities can play a role. If a parent has a congenital heart defect, there may be an increased risk for their child.
  • Conditions such as Down syndrome are associated with a higher incidence of congenital heart defects.
  • Exposure to certain substances during pregnancy, such as medications, drugs, alcohol, or infections like rubella, can increase the risk.
  • Conditions affecting the mother, such as diabetes or obesity, may contribute to an elevated risk.
  • Women who become pregnant at an older age may have a slightly higher risk of having a child with a congenital heart defect.

It is often a combination of these factors rather than a single cause, says the expert. Early prenatal care and genetic counseling can help identify potential risk factors and provide guidance for managing and understanding congenital heart defects.

What is the treatment for congenital heart defects?

The treatment for congenital heart defects depends on the type and severity of the defect. Some defects may be managed with medications to control symptoms, improve heart function, or prevent complications. Many congenital heart defects require surgical intervention to correct structural abnormalities. Procedures may include closing holes in the heart, repairing or replacing valves, or widening narrowed vessels. Minimally invasive catheterisation techniques can be used to repair certain defects, such as closing holes or widening narrowed vessels without open-heart surgery. In severe cases where other treatments are not sufficient, a heart transplant may be considered, says Dr Borse.

Regular follow-up care is essential to monitor progress, adjust treatment as needed, and address any emerging issues. The goal is to optimise the child’s quality of life and cardiac function.

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About the Author

Natalia Ningthoujam has written on various subjects - from music to films and fashion to lifestyle - as a journalist in her career that started in 2010. After getting stories from the crime scene, police headquarters, and conducting interviews with celebrities, she is now writing on health and wellness which has become her focus area. ...Read More

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