Congenital Heart Disease in Adults

Congenital heart disease refers to a variety of structural issues with the heart that has existed since birth. Congenital refers to a condition that you are born with. Both adults and children with congenital heart disease may have altered blood flow via the heart.

Congenital cardiac abnormalities can be in a variety of forms. There are several milder forms of congenital cardiac disease. Yet, complicated flaws might result in potentially fatal issues. Yet, improvements in diagnosis and care are extending the lives of those with congenital cardiac disease.

Congenital heart disease patients require lifetime medical treatment. Regular checks (watchful waiting), medicine, or surgery are all possible forms of treatment.

Congenital Heart Disease in Adults: Causes

The majority of congenital cardiac diseases have unknown origins, according to researchers. Certain congenital cardiac conditions are inherited from parents to children (inherited). Understanding how the heart generally functions will help you better comprehend congenital heart disease.

Two top chambers (atria) and two lower chambers make up the heart's chamber structure (ventricles). Blood veins on the right side of the heart transport blood to the lungs (pulmonary arteries). Blood absorbs oxygen in the lungs before returning to the left side of your heart via the pulmonary veins.

The blood is then pumped from the left side of the heart to the rest of the body through the aorta. All of these cardiac components, including the arteries, valves, chambers, and tissue wall that divides the chambers, are susceptible to congenital heart disease (septum).

Congenital Heart Disease in Adults: Symptoms

Some people don't experience the warning signs or symptoms of congenital heart disease until they are adults. Years after a congenital heart abnormality has been fixed, symptoms may come back.

Typical adult congenital heart disease signs and symptoms include −

  • Abnormal heartbeats (arrhythmias)

  • Blue fingernails, lips, and skin (cyanosis)

  • Breathing difficulty

  • Experiencing fatigue after vigorous activities

  • Bodily organs or tissue swelling (edema)

Congenital Heart Disease in Adults: Risk Factors

Congenital cardiac disease may be influenced by several environmental and genetic risk factors, such as −

  • Genetics. It indicates that congenital cardiac disease runs in families (inherited). It has a lot of genetic disorders attached to it. For instance, congenital cardiac abnormalities are common in children with Down syndrome. When an unborn child is still in the mother's womb, genetic testing can identify Down syndrome and several other genetic disorders.

  • German mumps (rubella). Rubella infection during pregnancy may have an impact on how the unborn child's heart grows.

  • Diabetes. Pregnancy-related type 1 or type 2 diabetes may also have an impact on how the baby's heart develops. The risk of congenital cardiac disease is often not increased by gestational diabetes.

  • Medications. Congenital heart disease and other birth problems might result from taking some drugs while expecting. Lithium used to treat bipolar illness, and isotretinoin, used to treat acne, are medications that have been associated with cardiac abnormalities. Inform your doctor of all the drugs you take at all times.

  • Alcohol. Alcohol use during pregnancy has been associated with an increased risk of fetal heart abnormalities.

  • Quit smoking if you do. Smoking during pregnancy raises the chance that the baby may be born with congenital cardiac abnormalities.

Congenital Heart Disease in Adults: Diagnosis

To diagnose congenital heart disease in adults −

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). The electrical cardiac impulses are captured during this painless procedure. The rate of the heartbeat can be determined via an ECG. An ECG can be used to detect erratic heartbeats (arrhythmias).

  • A chest X-ray. Changes in the heart's and lungs' size and shape can be seen on a chest X-ray.

  • Oximetry through the pulse. The amount of oxygen in the blood may be estimated using a tiny sensor that is affixed to the finger.

  • Echocardiogram. Ultrasound produces pictures of the beating heart. Echocardiography can display the heart's and its heart valves' blood flow. You might also get an echocardiogram while doing out, usually on a treadmill or bike.

  • Echocardiography transesophageal. A transesophageal echocardiography may be used if the doctor feels that more precise pictures of the heart are required. In this test, a flexible tube with a transducer is inserted into the tube that connects the mouth to the stomach and then down the throat (esophagus).

  • Stress testing or exercise tests. These tests frequently involve walking or cycling on a treadmill while the heart is being tracked by an ECG. Exercise testing can show how the heart reacts to exertion.

  • Heart MRI and heart CT scan. Images of the heart and chest are produced by these tests. X-rays are used in cardiac CT scans. A magnetic field and radio waves are used in cardiac MRI. You lie on a table that normally glides into a long, tube-like machine for both tests.

  • Catheterization of the heart. This test can be used to measure the heart's blood pressure and blood flow. A catheter is delicately inserted into a blood artery by a doctor, often in the groin and up to the heart. To direct the catheter to the proper location, X-rays are employed. Occasionally a catheter is used to provide dye. The dye improves the visibility of blood vessels in the photographs.

Congenital Heart Disease in Adults: Treatment

Childhood congenital cardiac disease is frequently effectively treated. Certain congenital cardiac conditions, however, might not be severe enough to be fixed in children, yet they nevertheless pose a risk to adults.

The degree of congenital cardiac disease in adults will determine how it is treated. Just sporadic medical examinations may be necessary for those with relatively small congenital cardiac abnormalities to ensure the disease doesn't get worse.

Adults with congenital heart disease may also have surgery and other medical procedures. Medications that improve heart function can be used to treat some modest congenital heart abnormalities. Moreover, drugs may be used to manage an erratic heartbeat or avoid blood clots.

Treatments, Including Surgeries

Adults with congenital cardiac disease can receive treatment through a variety of surgeries and treatments.

  • Implants for the heart. Adults with congenital cardiac disease may experience fewer difficulties if they get a pacemaker or an implanted cardioverter-defibrillator (ICD), which regulates life-threatening irregular heartbeats.

  • Therapies utilizing catheters. Adults with some forms of congenital cardiac disease may be treated using catheters, which are small, flexible tubes. These procedures repair possible without requiring open heart surgery. A catheter is inserted by the medical professional through a blood artery, often in the groin, and directed to the heart. Several catheters may occasionally be utilized. Once the catheter is in position, the doctor inserts small instruments through it to fix the congenital heart abnormality.

  • Coronary angioplasty. Open-heart surgery can be required to correct a congenital cardiac abnormality if catheter treatments are ineffective.

  • Cardiac transplant. A heart transplant may be a possibility if a major cardiac problem cannot be fixed.

Congenital Heart Disease in Adults: Prevention

Congenital cardiac disease can run in families in some cases (inherited). An assessment by a genetic counselor may assist evaluate the likelihood of certain heart problems in future children if you or a family member has congenital heart disease.


A problem that affects the anatomy of your heart is known as adult congenital heart disease (ACHD). Blood flow is impacted by certain cardiac abnormalities. Fatigue, a cardiac murmur, and arrhythmia are possible symptoms. Surgery, medicine, implanted devices, and observation are all used in treatment.

Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha
Dr. Durgesh Kumar Sinha


Updated on: 30-Mar-2023


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