Depending on the severity of your congenital heart disease, treatment might be aimed at correcting the congenital heart defect or dealing with complications caused by the defect. Treatment might include:
- Watchful waiting. Relatively minor heart defects might require only periodic checkups with your doctor to make sure your condition doesn't worsen. Ask your doctor how often you need to be seen.
- Medications. Some mild congenital heart defects can be treated with medications that help the heart work more efficiently. You might also need medications to prevent blood clots or to control an irregular heartbeat.
- Implantable heart devices. Devices that help control your heart rate (pacemaker) or that correct life-threatening irregular heartbeats (implantable cardioverter-defibrillator, or ICD) can help some of the complications associated with congenital heart defects.
Special procedures using catheters. Some congenital heart defects can be repaired using catheterization techniques, which allow the repair to be done without surgically opening the chest and heart.
In these procedures, the doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) into a leg vein and guides it to the heart with the help of X-ray images. Once the catheter is in position, the doctor threads tiny tools through the catheter to repair the defect.
- Open-heart surgery. If catheter procedures can't fix your heart defect, your doctor might recommend open-heart surgery.
- Heart transplant. If a serious heart defect can't be repaired, a heart transplant might be an option.
Needed follow-up care
Many adults with congenital heart disease believe they've either outgrown their condition or that childhood treatment cured them. This might not be true, depending on the type of defect.
If you have congenital heart disease, even if you had surgery as a child, you're at risk of developing complications. So it's important to have lifelong follow-up care, especially if you had corrective heart surgery.
This follow-up care could be as simple as having periodic checkups with your doctor, or it may involve regular screenings for complications. The important thing is to discuss your care plan with your doctor and make sure you follow all of your doctor's recommendations.
Ideally, a cardiologist trained in treating adults with congenital heart defects will manage your care.
Congenital heart disease and pregnancy
A successful pregnancy is possible if you have congenital heart disease, especially if your defect was mild. However, some women with complex congenital heart defects are advised against pregnancy.
Before you become pregnant, discuss with your doctor possible risks and special care you might need during pregnancy.
Both men and women with congenital heart disease are at increased risk of passing some form of congenital heart disease to their children. Your doctor might suggest genetic counseling if you plan to become pregnant.