Affairs of the heart: Congenital Heart Disease

There are many different types of Congenital Heart Disease. While some are benign and do not require treatment, others sadly are incredibly complicated and require numerous surgical procedures over a lifetime. The impacts of this disease can cause large financial and emotional strain for people diagnosed; turning their lives upside down. Gaining a better understanding of Congenital Heart Disease can help broaden and improve care, and support for people suffering with the disease.

What is Congenital Heart Disease?

Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) is a malformation of the heart that is formed in the womb. It is a collective term used to describe the different types of structural defects of the heart. CHD is the most common birth defect in Australia, affecting 1 in 100 babies each year. Many cases of congenital heart disease are diagnosed during routine ultrasounds in pregnancy.

The most common type of CHD is Ventricular Septal Defect, which means there is a hole is in the septum (wall) of the heart. This occurs during gestation when the septum does not form properly. The septum (wall) allows oxygenated blood to pass from the left side to the right side of the heart and then to the lungs. Having a hole in the septum causes the heart to work harder as more blood is pumped through each ventricle and into the lungs. Causing the heart to work harder can severely increase the risk of stroke, heart failure, pulmonary hypertension (high blood pressure in the lungs) and arrhythmias.

COVID-19 and CHD

The COVID-19 vaccination is recommended for people diagnosed with Congenital Heart Disease as they are at an increased risk of complications and fatality. Close loved ones, such as family and friends, should also be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 to reduce the risk of transmission. The type of vaccine should be discussed with a cardiologist, so they are able to determine which type better suits the individuals needs.

The importance of seeing your GP

Adults with CHD can still lead full and active lives with correct management and care of the disease. Long-term monitoring is required because a defect that may have been repaired in childhood may need further repair in future. Furthermore, Congenital Heart Disease increases the risk of other health complications, which is why it is important to regularly see your General Practitioner (GP). Your GP will be able to identify any issues that may have arisen, such as reduced exercise capacity or signs and symptoms of heart failure.

While most cases of Congenital Heart Disease are diagnosed at gestation or birth, adults are still diagnosed each day in Australia. If you have experienced any chest pain, palpitations, rapid heart rate, fatigue or swelling of the lower legs, make an appointment with us today.