Ask the expert: What care will children with congenital heart defects need? | Health

For children born with congenital heart defects, what kind of specialized care will they need throughout their lives?

Congenital heart disease is the most common birth defect and often requires surgery as a newborn, infant, or any time in childhood.

All children born with congenital heart disease require regular visits to a pediatric cardiologist during childhood, the frequency of visits being related to the type of heart disease in the child and the surgery performed. Many surgeries correct the condition, and follow-up cardiology appointments tend to focus on the development of long-term complications. For conditions where surgery improves the condition but does not correct the condition, follow-up visits focus on the time of the next surgery, and visits to the pediatric cardiologist tend to be more frequent.

Rarely, children with congenital heart disease develop heart failure as a complication of their congenital heart disease. This may be medically treatable or may require a transplant, in which case the child will need to be treated by a heart failure / heart transplant specialist. All children with heart disease should receive care from a primary care physician, such as a pediatrician, to provide preventive care, monitor their development, and treat common childhood ailments. When infants require surgery for their heart disease, the baby is at risk for developmental delay, so sometimes it is necessary to be evaluated and receive care from a developmental pediatrician. Since some congenital heart disease can recur in families, evaluation by a genetic specialist is also sometimes necessary.

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