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Congenital heart disease

  • Definition
    • Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a problem with the heart's structure and function that is present at birth.

  • Causes
  • Symptoms
    • Symptoms depend on the condition. Although congenital heart disease is present at birth, the symptoms may not appear right away.

      Defects such as coarctation of the aorta may not cause problems for years. Other problems, such as a small VSD, ASD, or PDA may never cause any problems.

  • Exams and Tests
    • Most congenital heart defects are found during a pregnancy ultrasound. When a defect is found, a pediatric heart doctor, surgeon, and other specialists can be there when the baby is delivered. Having medical care ready at the delivery can mean the difference between life and death for some babies.

      Which tests are done on the baby depend on the defect and the symptoms.

  • Treatment
    • Which treatment is used, and how well the baby responds to it, depends on the condition. Many defects need to be followed carefully. Some will heal over time, while others will need to be treated.

      Some congenital heart diseases can be treated with medicine alone. Others need to be treated with one or more heart surgeries.

  • Prevention
    • Women who are pregnant should get good prenatal care:

      • Avoid alcohol and illegal drugs during pregnancy.
      • Tell your health care provider that you are pregnant before taking any new medicines.
      • Have a blood test early in your pregnancy to see if you are immune to rubella. If you are not immune, avoid any possible exposure to rubella and get vaccinated right after delivery.
      • Pregnant women who have diabetes should try to get good control over their blood sugar level.

      Certain genes may play a role in congenital heart disease. Many family members may be affected. Talk to your provider about genetic counseling and screening if you have a family history of cogenital heart disease.

  • References
    • Fraser CD, Carberry KE. Congenital heart disease. In: Townsend CM Jr, Beauchamp RD, Evers BM, Mattox KL, eds. Sabiston Textbook of Surgery. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2012:chap 59.

      Webb GD, Smallhorn JF, Therrien J, Redington AN. Congenital heart disease. In: Mann DL, Zipes DP, Libby P, Bonow RO, Braunwald E, eds. Braunwald's Heart Disease: A Textbook of Cardiovascular Medicine. 10th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Elsevier Saunders; 2015:chap 62.