Congenital Heart DefectsCongenital Heart Defects: Causes, Symptoms, Risk Factors, Treatments and Medications

Common questions about heart defects:

What is a Congenital Heart Defect?

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states that congenital heart defect is a problem with the heart that occurs at birth. Congenital heart defects can involve the interior walls of the heart, the valves inside of the heart or the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart. These sort of defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart. There are a wide variety of defects that range from simple defects with no symptoms to complex with life threatening symptoms.

What Causes Congenital Heart Defects?

Stanford Children’s Health states that in most cases when a baby is born with a congenital heart defect there is no known cause for it. Scientists are aware that some forms of congenital defects can be related to an abnormality in the number of an infant’s chromosomes, single gene defects or environmental factors.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states that one of the factors that may play a role in some defects is heredity, meaning that a child who has a parent with a congenital heart defect may be more likely to be born with one as well. They have also noticed a link between children who have genetic disorders such as Down syndrome with heart defects. They even went as far to state that half of all babies with Down syndrome have congenital defects. There has also been data that shows smoking during pregnancy has been linked to multiple types of congenital heart defects.

What are the Symptoms/Signs of Congenital Heart Defects?

Many forms of heart defects show little to no signs or symptoms. In fact some may even be hard for a doctor to detect during a normal physical exam. Symptoms and signs usually vary on the number, type and severity of the defect. Many severe defects can cause signs or symptoms to show.

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states that the most common symptoms for these sort of defects include rapid breathing, cyanosis, fatigue and poor blood circulation. Congenital heart defects are not known to produce chest pain or other painful symptoms.

What are the Risk Factors that may Contribute to Congenital Heart Defects?

The Mayo Clinic states that the majority of congenital heart defects results from issues early in a child’s heart development. The factors that lead to this are unknown. However, doctors and scientists theorize that the following environmental and genetic risk factors may play a role.

Risk Factors Description
Rubella If you have rubella during pregnancy it may cause problems in your baby’s heart development.
Diabetes Having diabetes may interfere with the development of the child’s heart. You can reduce this risk by controlling your diabetes before attempting to conceive and during pregnancy.
Medications There are certain medications that if taken while pregnant may cause congenital heart defects.
Alcohol During Pregnancy Consuming alcohol during pregnancy has been linked to an increase in congenital defects.
Smoking Smoking during pregnancy has also been linked to congenital defects in babies.
Heredity Congenital defects have been shown to run in families and are associated with many genetic syndromes such as Down syndrome.

What are the Criteria for Filing a Zofran Lawsuit?

Manufactured by GlaxoSmithKline, Zofran (ondansetron) was approved to treat nausea during chemotherapy and following surgery.

Zofran (ondansetron) works by blocking serotonin in the areas of the brain that trigger nausea and vomiting.

Between 2002 and 2004, GSK began promoting Zofran off-label for the treatment of morning sickness during pregnancy, despite the fact the drug has not been approved for pregnant women and there have been no well controlled studies in pregnant women.

The FDA has received nearly 500 reports of birth defects linked to Zofran. Birth defect risks include cleft palate and septal heart defects.

Are Congenital Heart Defects Treatable?

Yes. However, the ease of their treatment depends on the severity of the defect.

What Treatments are Available for Congenital Heart Defects?

The National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute states that many children who have congenital defects don’t need treatment. However for the children that do, doctors repair defects using surgery or catheter procedures. Sometimes it is necessary for a doctor to use both kinds of procedures to cure more complex defects.

The treatment that a child will receive depends on what type of defect they have and how severe it is. Other deciding factors include the child’s age, size and their overall general health. Some children with complex defects may need multiple surgeries or to take medicine for an extended period of time.

What Drugs/Medicines are used to Treat Congenital Heart Defects?

Seconds Count has provided a list of the most common medications that are used to treat congenital heart defects.

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View Sources

  1. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – What is a Congenital Heart Defect
  2. Stanford Children’s Health – Congenital Heart Defect Causes
  3. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – Causes of Congenital Heart Defects
  4. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – Symptoms of Congenital Heart Defects
  5. Mayo Clinic – Risk Factors for Congenital Heart Disease
  6. National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute – Treatments for Congenital Heart Defects
  7. Seconds Count – Common Drugs used to treat Congenital Heart Defects


Whittmore R, Hobbins J, Engle M, Pregnancy and its Outcome in Women with and without Surgical Treatment of  Congenital Heart Disease, 1892, The American Journal of Cardiology, Vol 50(3), 641-651

Boneva R, Botto L, Moore C, Yang Q, Correa A, Erickson D, Mortality Associated with Congenital Heart Defects in the United States, 2001, AHA Journals, Vol103(9), 2376-2381