A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart. It is present at birth. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. The defects can involve the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart, and the arteries and veins near the heart. They can disrupt the normal flow of blood through the heart. The blood flow can slow down, go in the wrong direction or to the wrong place, or be blocked completely.
Doctors use a physical exam and special heart tests to diagnose congenital heart defects. They often find severe defects during pregnancy or soon after birth. Signs and symptoms of severe defects in newborns include
- Rapid breathing
- Cyanosis - a bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails
- Poor blood circulation