Congenital Heart Disease

The phrase “congenital heart disease” is scary for parents. But at Joe DiMaggio Children’s Hospital, we have many ways to treat children who have congenital heart conditions.

Our cardiologists and surgeons work together to learn everything we can about your child and how to best treat him or her. No matter how complex the condition, we have the skill, technology and resources to help, including performing heart transplants.

What Is Congenital Heart Disease?

About one in every 100 newborns in the United States is born with a congenital heart defect (an abnormality in the heart's structure). Unlike acquired heart disease, which affects people in adulthood (often because of lifestyle factors), congenital heart disease is present at birth.

Because of today’s advancements in surgical and nonsurgical techniques, congenital heart disease is very treatable. With the right interventions and follow-up, the majority of children with congenital heart disease thrive and live full lives.

How We Care for Children With Congenital Heart Disease

We provide seamless care for congenital heart needs, from newborns to adults, offering:

  • Expert diagnosis and treatment: Our surgeons and cardiac interventionalists (cardiologists who perform nonsurgical procedures) work together to create care plans for children with congenital heart disease. About 30 percent of the time, we can treat a congenital defect with a nonsurgical cardiac catheterization procedure. In most cases, your child can go home within a day or two after the procedure. In some instances, we may treat an infant via a cardiac catheterization procedure early on, followed by heart surgery when the child is older and stronger.
  • Excellent outcomes: Because we focus on patient safety, personalized care and careful follow-up, we have above-average outcomes for several pediatric heart surgeries and interventional procedures. Learn more about our outcomes.
  • Patient-centered care: We tailor our care for you and your child. That means working together as a team and putting your child in the center. We coordinate behind the scenes to make treatment and follow-up as uncomplicated as possible. We also make sure to involve you in everything we do, because you are an integral part of your child’s recovery. 
  • Ability to treat all ages: Our specialists treat congenital heart conditions in people of all ages, including adults. Your care can stay with us for a lifetime. Learn more about our adult congenital heart disease program.
  • Most advanced treatments: It is still rare for a child to need a heart transplant. But if they do, we have a strong heart transplant program, with a history of very good outcomes. Learn more about heart transplant.

Types of Congenital Heart Defects

Some types of congenital heart defects are simple, and only require one minimally invasive procedure to correct. Others may involve a combination of abnormalities in the heart, and require one or more surgeries. We have the expertise to treat a wide range of congenital heart conditions, including:

Septal defects

A septal defect means there is a hole in the heart, which affects blood flow. Septal defects include:

  • Atrial septal defect (ASD): With ASD, there is a hole in the wall between the heart’s top two chambers. ASD is one of the most common congenital heart defects. Our surgeons can close the hole using a nonsurgical cardiac catheterization procedure.
  • Complete atrioventricular canal defect (CAVC): CAVC is a large hole in the heart that affects all four chambers of the heart and the way the blood gets routed. We treat this condition surgically.
  • Patent ductus arteriosus (PDA): PDA is a common congenital heart defect where a hole in the aorta that is supposed to close after birth stays open. We can treat PDA and close the hole nonsurgically.
  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO): PFO is a hole in the aorta that is supposed to close when a baby is born, but for about 30 percent of people, it remains open. It does not always require treatment, but it can increase the risk for stroke. We invented a special nonsurgical technique to close the hole if it is causing problems for children or adults.
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD): With VSD, there is a hole in the wall that separates the lower chambers of the heart. We usually treat VSD with surgery, though in some cases where the hole is very small, surgery isn’t needed.

Valve defects

Valves help regulate how blood flows through the heart. Some congenital heart defects can affect the valves, including:

  • Pulmonary atresia: With this condition, the pulmonary valve does not form properly. That means blood cannot flow from the heart to the lungs as it should. There are two types of pulmonary atresia, one with a ventricular septal defect (VSD) and one without. Pulmonary atresia with VSD usually requires surgery. We can often treat the type without VSD with a nonsurgical procedure.

Other congenital heart defects

There are numerous other types of heart defects we can treat, even the most complex ones, including:

  • Coarctation of the aorta (CoA): This narrowing of the aorta (the heart’s main blood vessel) can cause high blood pressure or other conditions. We treat CoA with either surgery or cardiac catheterization.
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS): With HLHS, the left side of a baby’s heart is underdeveloped, which means it can’t pump blood properly. We treat HLHS through a series of surgeries in the first few years of a child’s life. Learn more about how we treat HLHS.
  • Interrupted Aortic Arch (IAA): The aorta carries blood from the heart to the rest of the body. IAA causes an obstruction in how the blood flows. We treat IAA with surgery first. If the obstruction returns, we can often use an interventional procedure in the cardiac catheterization lab.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot: Tetralogy of Fallot is a combination of structural heart problems. Together, these defects prevent a baby’s blood from flowing through the heart as it should. We always treat tetralogy of Fallot surgically. For some babies, we can do a temporary procedure until the baby is strong enough for complete surgical repair.
  • Total anomalous pulmonary venous return (TAPVR): TAPVR is a problem with the pulmonary veins (the veins that run from the lungs to the heart). We always treat TAPVR with surgery.
  • Transposition of the great vessels: With this defect, the aorta and the pulmonary artery – the 2 major vessels that carry blood away from the heart – are switched (transposed). We may need to do an interventional procedure right after birth. Either way, we use surgery to correct the condition, usually when the baby is about a week old.

Contact Us

To schedule an appointment or learn about our award-winning pediatric heart team, call 954-265-3437.