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Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease is a type of defect in one or more structures of the heart or blood vessels that occur before birth.

congenital heart disease
  • Congenital heart defects occur while the fetus is developing in the uterus.
  • They affect 8 to 10 out of every 1,000 children. Congenital heart defects may produce symptoms at birth, during childhood and sometimes not until adulthood.
  • About 500,000 adults in the United States have grown into adulthood with congenital heart disease. This number increases by about 20,000 each year.

The most common congenital heart disorders affecting adults are:

Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart defects may be diagnosed before birth, right after birth, during childhood or not until adulthood. It is possible to have a defect and no symptoms at all. In adults, if symptoms of congenital heart disease are present, they may include:

  • shortness of breath
  • poor exercise tolerance

Diagnosis of Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease is diagnosed by a murmur on a physical exam and several diagnostic tests:

Treatment of Congenital Heart Disease

Treatment is based on the severity of the congenital heart disease. Some mild heart defects do not require any treatment.

Others can be treated with medications, invasive procedures or surgery. Most adults with congenital heart disease should be monitored by a heart specialist and may need to take precautions to prevent endocarditis (an infection of the heart) throughout their life.

How to find a doctor if you have adult congenital heart disease

Doctors vary in quality due to differences in training and experience; hospitals differ in the number of services available. The more complex your medical problem, the greater these differences in quality become and the more they matter.

Clearly, the doctor and hospital that you choose for complex, specialized medical care will have a direct impact on how well you do. To help you make this choice, read more about our Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute outcomes. See About Us to learn more about the Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic.

The Center for Adult Congenital Heart Disease in the Sydell and Arnold Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute is a specialized center involving a multi-disciplinary group of specialists, including cardiologists, cardiac surgeons and nurses from Cardiovascular Medicine, Pediatric Cardiology, Pediatric and Congenital Heart Surgery, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Diagnostic Radiology, Pulmonary, Allergy and Critical Care Medicine, and Transplantation Center, who provide a comprehensive approach to diagnosing and treating adult congenital heart disease.

For more information

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Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

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This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© Copyright 2015 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved.

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