In Children

Severe heart disease generally becomes evident during the first few months after birth. Some babies are blue or have very low blood pressure shortly after birth. Other defects cause breathing difficulties, feeding problems, or poor weight gain.

Minor defects are most often diagnosed on a routine medical check-up. Minor defects rarely cause symptoms. While most heart murmurs in children are normal, some may be due to defects.

If the heart problem is significant, the child’s pediatrician will likely refer the child to a pediatric cardiologist. Pediatric cardiologists are trained to diagnose and treat heart problems in infants, children, and young adults. They have the training and equipment to find out what tests and treatments the child will need, and how often the child will need heart checkups in the future.

In Adults

For pregnant women, the American Heart Association recommends maintaining a healthy pregnancy weight, monitoring and measuring diabetes, and taking prescribed prenatal vitamins and minerals, especially folic acid. For adults who believe they may have a heart defect, it is important to visit a cardiologists who can evaluate their medical history and perform a physical exam. Physicians may also order an electrocardiogram (called an EKG or ECG), chest X-ray, or an echocardiogram (ultrasound movie of the heart). A ventricular septal defect can lead to heart failure, high blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension), infection of the heart (endocarditis), irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias), and delayed growth. Small holes may heal on their own or cause no symptoms. Larger holes may require surgery to stitch the hole closed or to cover the hole with a patch.

For more information about congenital heart defects, visit the American Heart Association website at