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Congenital Heart Disease

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Congenital heart defects occur when parts of the heart do not form — or form incorrectly — during fetal development. They can range from small holes between the inner walls of the heart, to the absence or malformation of large parts of the heart.

Affecting one in 100 newborns, congenital heart conditions are the most common birth defect in the U.S. There are approximately 1 million children and 1.4 million adults with congenital heart disease living today. Learn more about congenital heart disease on our blog. 

WakeMed’s specialized cardiologists are able to expertly diagnose, monitor and treat people of all ages who have congenital heart disease.

Types of Congenital Heart Disease

There are many types of congenital/structural heart conditions. They include:

  • Aortic valve stenosis (AVS)
  • Atrial septal defect (ASD)
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Complete atrioventricular canal defect (CAVC)
  • Ebstein’s anomaly
  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
  • Pulmonary valve stenosis
  • Single ventricle defects
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Total anomalous pulmonary venous connection (TAPVC)
  • Transposition of the great arteries
  • Truncus arteriosus
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Diagnosing Congenital Heart Disease

Most congenital heart defects are diagnosed prior to or shortly after birth. Maternal-fetal specialists and cardiologists can use advanced cardiac imaging to diagnose and monitor congenital heart abnormalities. Imaging technologies that may be used include:

  • Echocardiogram ("echo") tests: Echocardiography is a type of cardiac imaging that uses sound waves to create moving pictures of the heart and its blood vessels at rest and during exercise. Echocardiogram images help cardiologists diagnose, evaluate and monitor many heart conditions. Types of echo tests include:
    • Transthoracic 2-D echocardiography (TTE): This common, non-invasive echo study is performed externally, outside of the chest. TTE can be performed using bubbles (to identify problems with cardiac blood flow) or DEFINITY® contrast (to further clarify imaging).
    • Transesophageal echocardiography (TEE): This minimally invasive study can help cardiologists get a closer look at cardiovascular structures if more information is needed after a TTE study.
  • Cardiac CT and MRI: Cardiac computed tomography (CT) and magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) are two advanced, non-invasive ways to look inside the heart and thoroughly assess the cardiovascular structures. These can be performed with or without calcium scoring.

Treating Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease is often a lifelong medical condition. While some congenital heart defects heal without treatment, others can require multiple interventions and/or lifelong medication. Treatment depends on the type and severity of the anomaly.

Cardiovascular surgeons can perform a variety of highly specialized operations—from traditional open surgeries to less invasive procedures—to correct congenital heart abnormalities. In some cases, surgeries must be performed over time, in stages.

Make an Appointment

If you or a loved one suffers from or is suspected to have congenital heart disease, we encourage you to make an appointment today with one of WakeMed’s specialized cardiologists.