What is Congenital Heart Disease?
Congenital heart disease (CHD) describes the presence of a cardiac anomaly from birth. Some of these anomalies will have been diagnosed prior to delivery by ante-natal scans, but many will present at, or after birth.
Congenital Heart Disease covers a wide spectrum from small ventricular septal defects (VSD) which may be totally asymptomatic and compatible with a normal life span, to more severe forms such as Fallot’s tetralogy.
What causes Congenital Heart Disease?
In Northern Ireland, over 200 babies a year are born with a congenital heart defect. Generally, we don’t know why they occur. Sometimes a viral infection can cause serious problems e.g if a mother contracts German measles (rubella) during pregnancy it may interfere with the development of the baby’s heart. Other viral diseases also may produce congenital defects.
Heredity can play a role in congenital heart disease. Certain conditions affecting multiple organs, such as Down’s syndrome, can involve the heart too.
Although studies into the causes of congenital heart disease are underway, we still don’t know what causes most congenital heart defects.