Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital

Congenital Heart Defects

Heart Conditions in Adults - Congenital Heart Defects

What is a congenital heart defect?

When the heart or blood vessels near the heart do not develop normally before birth, a condition called congenital heart defect occurs (congenital means "inborn" or "existing at birth").

Congenital heart defects occur in about 8 percent to 10 percent of every 1,000 infants. About 500,000 adults in the US have congenital heart disease. Many young people with congenital heart defects are living in adulthood now.

In most cases, the cause is unknown. Sometimes a viral infection or hereditary causes the condition. Some congenital heart defects are the result of too much alcohol or drug use during pregnancy.

Most heart defects either cause an abnormal blood flow through the heart, or obstruct blood flow in the heart or vessels (obstructions are called stenoses and can occur in heart valves, arteries, or veins).

Rarely, defects include those in which:

Types of congenital heart defects:

There are many disorders of the heart that require clinical care by a physician or other healthcare professional. Listed below are some of the conditions, for which we have provided a brief overview.

Obstructive defects:

Septal defects:

Some congenital heart defects allow blood to flow between the right and left chambers of the heart because an infant is born with an opening in the septal wall that separates the right and left sides of the heart.

Cyanotic defects:

Cyanotic defects are defects in which blood pumped to the body contains less-than-normal amounts of oxygen, resulting in a condition called cyanosis. It causes a blue discoloration of the skin. Infants with cyanosis are often called "blue babies."

Other defects:

Click here to view the
Online Resources of Heart Center


Top of Page return to top of page