Congenital Heart Disease


What is congenital heart disease?

Congenital heart disease involves problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth, affecting 8 of every 1000 newborns.1

Congenital heart disease is the most common of all major birth defects. A congenital heart defect occurs when the heart or blood vessels near the heart do not develop normally before birth. These defects can involve:

  • A hole in the heart (Septal Defect)
  • Narrowed valves
  • Defects that affect blood flow to or from the heart (i.e. tetralogy of Fallot)
  • Defects that affects the heart muscle, such as in cardiomyopathy


Atrial Septal Defect

Congential means inborn or existing at birth. Other names for congenital heart disease are congenital heart defect and congenital cardiovascular disease.

It is estimated that 32,000 children (under 18 years of age) are currently living with congenital heart disease in Australia, and that almost 3,000 babies are born with a heart defect in Australia every year.1

Causes and Risk Factors

What are the causes and risk factors of congenital heart disease?
The causes of congenital heart disease often are not known, but genetic and environmental factors may play a role.


What are the symptoms of a congenital heart defect?
Many congenital heart defects have few or no symptoms.


How is congenital heart disease diagnosed?
While serious congenital heart defects are generally identified during pregnancy or soon after birth, less severe defects are not diagnosed until children are older.


How is congenital heart disease treated?
Doctors repair many congenital heart defects with catheter procedures or surgery.

Living with Congenital Heart Disease

What is it like to have a congenital heart disease?
The outlook for a child who has a congenital heart defect is much better today than in the past. Advances in testing and treatment mean that most children who have heart defects survive to adulthood and are able to live active, productive lives.

Many of these children need only occasional checkups with a cardiologist (heart specialist) as they grow up and go through adult life.

Children who have complex heart defects need long-term, special care by trained specialists. This will help them stay as healthy as possible and maintain a good quality of life.

1. National Heart Lung and Blood Institute. Accessed 110109

2. Congenital Cardiovascular Defects: Current Knowledge: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young. Circulation, 2007;115:2995-3014.

3. Pierpont ME, et al. Genetic Basis for Congenital Heart Defects: Current Knowledge: A Scientific Statement From the American Heart Association Congenital Cardiac Defects Committee, Council on Cardiovascular Disease in the Young. Circulation, 2007;115:3015-3038.