6 Things You Didn’t Know About Congenital Heart Defects

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Finding out your child has a congenital heart defect (CHD) brings up a lot of questions—What does this mean for my child? Will he get better? Does he need a transplant?

Answering these questions is part of my job, and I’m always happy to help families understand CHD. In addition to answering questions about their child’s CHD, I like to give families some little known facts.

Here are 6 facts about CHD that I like to share with patients and their families.

1. You Are Not Alone

Finding out that your child has a congenital heart defect can be scary and overwhelming—but it doesn’t need to be isolating. CHD is the most common type of birth defect in the US: About 40,000 babies here are born with CHD every year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

2. When Heart Kiddos Are No Longer Kiddos

As medical care has improved, so have survival rates. There are about 1 million US children living with CHD, and most live to adulthood.

Because of this, there are actually more adults living with CHD than children—about 1.4 million.

3. One Beat Ahead: Major Advancements in CHD Diagnosis And Care

4. Kids Come First

Open-heart surgery was first performed in 1944 on a 15-month-old girl with tetralogy of fallot—a type of CHD that’s actually a group of four separate defects. The surgery is said to have paved the way for adult open-heart surgery, which wasn’t developed until the next decade, the US National Library of Medicine notes.

The operation was a success, and ended up prolonging thousands of lives. A modified version—the Modified Blalock-Taussig shunt—is still used today, according to Understanding Pediatric Heart Sounds: Second Edition (2003).

5. Trying Transplants

The first heart transplant for an infant occurred in 1984, when a 10-day-old baby received a new heart, notes Current Cardiology Reviews (May 2011). The success continued into the next year, when a 4-day-old boy also received a new heart.

Currently, about 500 pediatric transplants are performed worldwide each year, and survival rates continue to improve, according to the Pediatric Heart Transplant Study Foundation.

6. CHD In The Stars

CHD doesn’t discriminate—many celebrities were once heart kids:

And a number of celebs are heart parents:

Please share your thoughts in the comments below.

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Barb Roessner

Hi, I'm Barb, and I'm a Physician Assistant and coordinator of the Heart Failure and Transplant Program at Children's Hospital & Medical Center in Omaha. I work with patients and families at every step of the journey, from diagnosing their child's heart condition to my favorite part—calling them to say "We have a heart."

One Response to "6 Things You Didn’t Know About Congenital Heart Defects"

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  1. Connie Paus

    February 20, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    There are no words that can express our gratitude for all you have done for our grandson and our family. You were there every step of the way to give us hope and calm our fears. The staff at Children’s is the best and we are grateful for the care our grandson received. Thank you for everything.


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