Some potential complications that can occur with a congenital heart defect include:

  • Congestive heart failure. This serious complication, which makes it difficult for the heart to pump blood to the body, may develop in babies who have a significant heart defect. Signs of congestive heart failure include rapid breathing, often with gasping breaths, and poor weight gain.
  • Slower growth and development. Children with more-serious congenital heart defects often develop and grow more slowly than do children who don't have heart defects. They may be smaller than other children of the same age and, if the nervous system has been affected, may learn to walk and talk later than other children.
  • Heart rhythm problems. Heart rhythm problems (arrhythmias) can be caused by a congenital heart defect or from scarring that forms after surgery to correct a congenital heart defect.
  • Cyanosis. If your child's heart defect causes oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix in his or her heart, your child may develop a grayish-blue skin color, a condition called cyanosis.
  • Stroke. Although uncommon, some children with congenital heart defects are at increased risk of stroke due to blood clots traveling through a hole in the heart and on to the brain. Stroke is also a potential complication of some corrective surgeries for congenital heart defects.
  • Emotional issues. Some children with congenital heart defects may feel insecure or develop emotional problems because of their size, activity restrictions or learning difficulties. Talk to your child's doctor if you're concerned about your child's moods.
  • A need for lifelong follow-up. Treatment for children who have congenital heart defects may not end with surgeries or medication while they're young.

    Children who have heart defects should be mindful of their heart problems their entire lives, as their defect could lead to an increased risk of heart tissue infection (endocarditis), heart failure or heart valve problems. Most children with congenital heart defects will need to be seen regularly by a cardiologist throughout their life.

Nov. 08, 2014

You Are ... The Campaign for Mayo Clinic

Mayo Clinic is a not-for-profit organization. Make a difference today.