Congenital Heart Defects in Children

“Congenital” means that the heart problem develops before a baby is born or at birth. Most congenital heart defects involve how blood flows through the heart or through the blood vessels near the heart. Some defects may cause blood to flow in a pattern that isn't normal. Others can completely or partially block blood flow.

Heart defects can be less serious, such as a hole between the chambers of the heart or a heart valve that has not formed right. Others are more serious and complex, such as a missing heart valve or heart chamber.

Serious congenital heart defects usually become evident soon after birth or during the first few months of life. Signs and symptoms could include:

  • Pale gray or blue skin color
  • Rapid breathing
  • Flared nostrils
  • Grunting when breathing
  • Swelling in the legs, abdomen or areas around the eyes
  • Shortness of breath during feedings, leading to poor weight gain

Less serious congenital heart defects may not be diagnosed until later in childhood, because your child may not have any noticeable signs of a problem. If signs and symptoms are evident in older children, they may include:

  • Easily becoming short of breath during exercise or activity
  • Easily tiring during exercise or activity
  • Swelling in the hands, ankles or feet

Some defects are discovered in the fetus (developing baby) while a woman is pregnant. Others are not found until birth. Still others may not be discovered until your child gets older or even until he or she is an adult.

At Mercy we understand the overwhelming stress and fear that comes with having a child with a heart problem. But you can rest assured that Mercy has the expert pediatric heart specialists and the most advanced specialty hospitals to deliver the care your child needs. Together, we will work as team to address your child’s heart problems and get him or her started on a long healthy life.

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