Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week

Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week

The week of February 7-14 is annually commemorated as Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.

During this time we strive to educate people and help make more individuals aware of congenital heart defects. This is the most common classification of birth defects and occurs in 1 of 100 births annually in the U.S. alone. Approximately 2.4 million people in the U.S. are estimated to be suffering from a congenital heart defect, and nearly 1 million of those people are children.

A congenital heart defect is an irregularity of the heart that is present at birth. There are many different types of issues that may occur due to improper formation of the heart while in-utero. This means that any number of issues can occur if the blood vessels or the heart itself do not develop properly during the mother’s pregnancy.

People have often mislabel congenital heart defects as congenital heart disease. This specific issue with the heart is a malformation or anomaly, and cannot be described as a specific disease. There are several ways which a defect can present itself.

Possible Abnormalities

1. Pulmonary Valve Stenosis

2. Aortic Valve Stenosis

3. Single Ventricle Defects

4. Atrial Septal Defect

5. Patent Ductus Arteriosus

6. Complete Atrioventricular Canal Defect

Healthy hearts are made of arteries, veins, valves, and chambers which all work together to pump and circulate blood through the body. When a heart defect is present issues may arise in the proper pattern in which the blood is pumped through the body. The normal, healthy pattern is from the body, to the heart, then into the lungs, back to the heart and then out to the body again. During this process the blood is brought from the body into the heart, which then pumps the blood into the lungs to be oxygenated, after which it returns to the heart to be pumped to the rest of the body.

Some defects may cause issues with the way the blood is pumping resulting in the heart being made to work harder, impeding the oxygenation process, and possibly interfering with the circulatory system.


1. Fatigue brought on by exercise or activity, in an infant this can present as rapid breathing with flared nostrils

2. Cyanosis or skin which has a bluish tint.

3. Fainting or dizziness

4. Edema or swelling of parts of the body including organs.

5. Arrhythmias, also referred to as abnormal rhythm of the heart

Most often the defects which developed in-utero are discovered while the mother is still pregnant, or shortly after birth. In some cases the issue is so small or intricate that it is left unnoticed until later in life. There are several tests which your family physician can use to help discover an issue such as this as soon as possible.


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