Congenital Heart Disease Complications to Watch Out For

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Update Date 03/08/2020 . 4 mins read
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Congenital heart disease or CHD is a problem present at birth which involves the structure and function of the heart.

Considered as the number one cause of death during the first year of life. It has affected the lives of many newborns and for those who survive their first year, until their adult lives. 

Complications of Congenital Heart Disease

Endocarditis

One of the complications of congenital heart disease is infective endocarditis. This is an infection that develops within the layers of the heart.

When untreated, endocarditis can lead to problems such as blood clots, heart valve damage, or even heart failure.

For certain heart diseases, an individual must take antibiotics before having dental or surgical procedures to prevent this from happening. 

Blood Clots

One of the complications of congenital heart disease are blood clots, which can lead to more serious complications. This can include a stroke or pulmonary embolism wherein the blood supply to the lungs are blocked.

Heart Arrhythmia

complications of congenital heart disease

Part of the complications of congenital heart disease is also Arrhythmia. This is associated with how the heart beats. When it beats too fast, too slow, or irregularly it cannot pump enough blood to the body. This increases the risk for blood clots. Aside from being associated with certain CHDs, this can also develop after past treatments or procedures for the heart defect.  

Pulmonary Hypertension

Some complications of congenital heart disease force the heart and lung to work harder, this is identified as pulmonary hypertension. This happens when the blood vessels that supply to the lungs are unable to carry as much blood. Pressure then builds up and backs up, making the heart work harder. This causes less blood to circulate through the lungs which leads shortness of breath and feeling tired or dizzy. 

Heart Failure

Another one of the previously mentioned complications of congenital heart disease is called heart failure. This does not exactly mean that the heart stops working, it just became inefficient. Heart failure is the inability of the heart to pump enough blood that is needed throughout the body. Its symptoms include the following:

  • Breathlessness during activity or even at rest
  • Extreme tiredness and weakness 
  • Swelling of the abdomen, legs, ankles, and feet.  

Other Complications

For some serious cases, the complications of congenital heart disease include developmental problems. A delay in their development occurs which could also result to lifelong problems with physical coordination.

Complications of Congenital Heart Disease: Learning Difficulties

  • Impaired memory
  • Problems with expressing and understanding language 
  • Low attention span and difficulty concentrating
  • Poor planning abilities
  • Poor impulse control or the tendency to act rashly without considering the consequences

One of the complications of congenital heart disease that some are more susceptible to is repeated respiratory tract infection. This type of infection affects the sinuses, throat, airways or lungs. One common example of this infection is pneumonia.

As a person with CHD gets older, they can also get other diseases that are associated with adults.

This can include diabetes, obesity, or atherosclerosis which is the buildup of cholesterol in the arteries.

And because they suffer from CHD, the effects are different from those who are not diagnosed with the disease. When dealing with these complications of congenital heart disease, it must be closely monitored by cardiologists for proper care. 

Diagnosing Congenital Heart Disease 

In some cases, signs of a congenital heart disease are not noticeable right after birth.

For some types of CHD, the symptoms do not appear until a few months after or even years.

But it is possible to diagnose a baby right after birth, especially for some of the severe cases, wherein the doctor would notice the following:

  • Rapid breathing or heartbeat
  • Cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails)
  • Fatigue
  • Poor blood circulation

Upon knowing the initial symptoms, additional tests are conducted to give a proper diagnosis. This includes the following procedures: 

  • Echocardiography (echo)
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG)
  • Chest X-ray
  • Pulse Oximetry
  • Cardiac Catheterization

complications of congenital heart disease

There are different congenital heart diseases, which can be divided into two types. Cyanotic which develops because of the lack of oxygen, and the other is non-cyonatic. These anomalies can occur alone or together. 

Types of Congenital Heart Disease

Cyanotic

  • Ebstein’s anomaly
  • Hypoplastic left heart
  • Pulmonary atresia
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Total anomalous pulmonary venous return
  • Transposition of the great vessels
  • Tricuspid atresia
  • Truncus arteriosus

Non-cyanotic

  • Aortic stenosis
  • Bicuspid aortic valve
  • Atrial septal defect (ASD)
  • Atrioventricular canal (endocardial cushion defect)
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)
  • Pulmonic stenosis
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Being diagnosed with congenital heart disease imposes difficulties on the quality of one’s life. But there is more to it than one can assume.

There are several complications of congenital heart disease that those diagnosed should be mindful of. Most are also related to the heart while some are not. Below are some of the common complications that can be encountered by those diagnosed with CHD. 

Key Takeaways

The complications of congenital heart disease may be overwhelming especially for those who are diagnosed with it. But many cases can be managed or even prevented through proper medication, a healthy diet, and exercise, though some may require surgery.

As with any chronic illness with several possible complications, early intervention is key.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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