Author Helen Keller wrote, “The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched; they must be felt with the heart.” It’s a recognizable feeling to many expecting parents: to love their unborn child before he or she enters the world. But what happens when their heart is weakened due to congenital heart disease (CHD)? Will they be able to live a long, healthy, and loving life?

Here is a statistic every parent should know: heart defects, which effect blood flow to the heart and its surrounding vessels, are among the most common birth defects – affecting approximately 9 out of every 1,000 newborns according to the American Heart Association – and are the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths. In a recent study, cytogeneticist Dorothy Warburton, PhD, epidemiologist Jennie Kline, PhD, and other contributors from Columbia University Medical Center’s Department of Pediatrics analyzed data gathered from 223 families, each with at least one child affected by CHD. The study concluded that genetic anomalies –conditions caused by abnormalities in parental genes – contribute to CHD. The full article is featured in the current issue of Connections (2014 Summer Edition, page 4).

…heart defects, which effect blood flow to the heart and its surrounding vessels, are among the most common birth defects – affecting approximately 9 out of every 1,000 newborns according to the American Heart Association – and are the leading cause of birth defect-related deaths.

Early detection can assist in the treatment of CHD. Some types of CHD can be diagnosed during pregnancy, through an ultrasound or a fetal echocardiogram, while others may only become apparent after birth. If a baby is born with cyanotic heart disease or a group of many different heart defects that result in a low blood oxygen level, the diagnosis is usually made shortly after birth due to the bluish color of their skin, a condition called cyanosis. Whereas if a baby is born with a septal defect or an obstruction defect, the symptoms may only be noticeable several months or even years later.

To learn more about CHD, treatment options, and more, visit our Pediatrics Cardiology page.