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Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart structure that have been present since birth. These defects include:

  • Defects of the inner walls of the heart
  • Defects of the valves in the heart
  • Defects of the arteries and veins that carry blood in the heart and out of it, in the body.

Congenital heart defects change the normal flow of blood through the heart. This occurs as a consequence of underdeveloped parts of the heart before birth.

Congenital defects do not cause chest pain or other painful symptoms. Severe defects cause signs and symptoms, most commonly in infants, and these include:

  • Rapid breathing
  • Weak circulation

There are many types of congenital heart defects that can be simple defects without symptoms to complex defects with severe, life-threatening symptoms. Some examples of congenital defects include:

  • Atrial septal defect
  • Ventricular septal defect
  • Pulmonary valve stenosis
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Right ventricular hypertrophy
  • Tetralogy of Fallot (a combination of several defects)

Depending on the severity, the complexity and the type of the defect itself, it can be treated with a catheterization procedure (interventionally) or with an open heart surgery. There are also defects for the treatment of which a combination of both types of treatment is used due to the complexity of the defect.

Open heart surgery in children with congenital heart defects is recommended in cases where the defect cannot be treated with an interventional procedure.

  • Closing the gaps between the ventricles and the atria with patch plasty
  • Reconstruction or replacement of the heart valves
  • Opening of the arteries or the openings of the heart valves
  • Reconstruction of complex defects that include problems with blood vessels near the heart (underdeveloped or placed in the wrong location)

In the optimal treatment of children with congenital heart defects that are characterized by changes in heart rhythm, implantation of pacemakers and cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) is also applied. The pacemaker is used for regulation of the abnormal heart rhythm, while defibrillators are used for correction of life-threatening disorders of the heart rhythm.


  • Examination by a pediatric cardiologist
  • ECG
  • Doppler echocardiography
  • Ergometry (heart stress test)
  • 24-hour blood pressure monitor
  • 24-hour Holter ECG
  • Interventions of congenital heart defects
  • Surgeries of children with congenital heart defects