Congenital Heart Disease: Types, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Congenital Heart Disease: Types, Symptoms and Diagnosis

Normal structure of the heart

The human heart consists of four chambers. Two of those chambers are called atria and the remaining two are called ventricles. The atria are located above the ventricles. The structure which separates the atria from each other is known as the septum whereas the atria are separated from the ventricles via valves.

How does a normal heart function?

The heart is responsible for pumping oxygen-carrying blood to all parts of the body. Deoxygenated blood flows into the right atrium via the superior vena cava.

The tricuspid valve opens and allows the blood to fill up the right ventricle. The pulmonary artery carries the blood present in the right ventricle towards the lungs. Oxygenated blood from the lungs flows into the left atrium via the pulmonary vein. The blood present in the left atrium flows into the left ventricle once the mitral valve opens up. Finally the left ventricle contracts and propels the oxygenated blood throughout the body via the aorta.

What is a congenital heart defect?

Congenital heart disease is a defect found in the structure of the heart which is present at the time of birth.

What are the types of congenital heart defects?

#1 Ventricular Septal Defect

In this heart defect there is a hole present in the septum which separates the ventricles. This is most common type of heart defect worldwide.

#2 Atrial Septal Defect

The patient with this defect has a hole in the septum which separates the atria.

#3 Transposition of Great Arteries

This defect causes an exchange between the main arteries which carry blood away from the heart. In this the right ventricle is attached to the aorta and the left ventricle is attached to the pulmonary artery.

#4 Truncus Arteriosus

A single artery takes blood from both ventricles away from the heart instead of the usual two.

#5 Tetralogy of Fallot

A defect which consists of four different individual defects within the heart including:

  • Pulmonary Stenosis – A narrowing of the valve which is present in the pulmonary artery.
  • Overriding of Aorta – In this blood from both ventricles is carried away by the aorta.
  • Ventricular Septal Defect
  • Transposition of Great Arteries

What are the signs and symptoms of congenital heart defects?

Most cases of congenital heart defects are asymptomatic. However, a few cases do present with symptoms which include:

  1. Rapid breathing
  2. Cyanosis ( a bluish discoloration of the skin)

How do we diagnose a congenital heart defect?

Congenital heart defects are diagnosed via the following methods:

Physical Exam

The doctor listens to the heart of the patient by using a stethoscope in order to detect any abnormal sounds.


An ultrasound of the heart which takes a photograph of the heart.

EKG or Electrocardiogram

It gives us a record of the electrical activity of the heart thereby letting us know how well it is functioning.

Pulse Oximetry

This test tells us just how much oxygen is in the blood of the patient.

Cardiac Catheterization

A flexible tube is used to inject a special dye into the vessels and chambers of the heart. This is done to measure the blood and oxygen level inside the heart.

How do we manage a congenital heart defect?

The only way to manage a congenital heart defect is to perform a surgery and repair the abnormality.

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