Congenital heart disease is a problem with the structure of the heart that is present at birth.

What is congenital heart disease?

Congenital heart disease is a problem with the structure of the heart. It is present at birth. "Congenital" means that the heart problem develops either before the baby is born or at birth.

Congenital heart defects are present in about one per cent of live births. They are the most frequent congenital malformations in newborns.

What are the types of congenital heart disease?

There are many different types of congenital heart defects. They can be fairly simple, such as a hole between the chambers of the heart or a heart valve that has not formed right. Others are more serious and complex, such as a missing heart valve or heart chamber.

Learn more about the types of congenital heart disease.

What are the symptoms of congenital heart disease? 

Common symptoms of congenital heart disease include:

  • A heart murmur
  • A bluish tint to skin, lips, and fingernails ("blue baby")
  • Fast breathing
  • Shortness of breath
  • Poor feeding, especially in infants because they tire easily while nursing
  • Poor weight gain in infants
  • Fatigue during exercise or activity (in older children)

What are the causes of congenital heart disease?

No one knows exactly what causes most congenital heart defects. In some cases, congenital heart disease is caused by:

How is congenital heart disease diagnosed? 

A heart defect may be discovered during pregnancy, after birth or in adulthood, when the body puts greater demands on the heart.

If a heart defect is suspected, you will be referred to a cardiologist (and in the case of a child, a pediatric cardiologist) who will review your medical history and may order the following tests:

What treatment is available for congenital heart disease?

Most congenital heart defects can be treated with medication, catheter-based intervention (a non-surgical procedure) or surgery.

Medication may be used to help the heart work better. Medication may also treat symptoms until the defect is repaired.

Learn more about medication and treatment options. 


The following resources have information on the types, symptoms, diagnosis and treatment for congenital heart disease: