Diagnosis

Your doctor will do a physical examination and use a stethoscope to listen to your heart in order to identify congenital heart disease. Questions regarding your symptoms, medical history, and family history will be asked.

The state of the heart can be examined by tests, which can also screen for other diseases that might present with similar symptoms.

Tests

The following tests are used to identify or confirm congenital cardiac disease in both adults and children:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG). A painless procedure which captures the electrical cardiac signals and the rate of the heartbeat. An ECG can be used to detect heartbeats that are irregular (arrhythmias).
  • Chest X-ray. Changes in the heart’s and lungs’ size and shape can be seen on a chest X-ray.
  • Pulse oximetry. The amount of oxygen in the blood can be estimated using a tiny sensor that is affixed to the finger.
  • Echocardiogram. Ultrasound produces images of the beating heart. An echocardiography can display the heart’s blood flow and its valves. You could also get an echocardiogram while working out, usually on a treadmill or bike.
  • Transesophageal echocardiogram. A transesophageal echocardiography may be used if the doctor feels that more precise images of the heart are required. In this test, a flexible tube with a transducer is inserted through the throat then down into the esophagus.
  • Exercise tests or stress tests. These tests frequently involve walking or cycling on a treadmill while the heart is being tracked by an ECG. Exercise testing can show how the heart reacts to exertion.
  • Heart Computed Tomography (CT) scan and heart Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI). Images of the heart and chest are produced by these tests. X-rays are used in cardiac CT scans. A magnetic field and radio waves are used in cardiac MRI. You lie on a table that normally slides into a long, tube-shaped machine for both tests.
  • Cardiac catheterization. This test can be used to measure the heart’s blood pressure and blood flow. A catheter is delicately inserted into a blood vessel by a doctor, typically in the groin and up to the heart. To direct the catheter to the proper location, X-rays are done. Sometimes a catheter is used to administer dye. The dye improves the visibility of blood vessels on the photographs.

Treatment

Childhood congenital heart disease is frequently effectively treated. Some congenital heart conditions, however, might not be severe enough to be fixed during childhood, yet they nevertheless pose a risk to adults.

The degree of congenital heart disease in adults will determine how it is treated. Only occasional medical examinations may be necessary for those with relatively small congenital cardiac abnormalities to prevent the progression of the disease.

Adults with congenital heart disease may also have surgery and other medical procedures.

Medications

Medications that improve heart function can be used to treat some mild congenital heart defects. Additionally, drugs may be administered to manage an erratic heartbeat or avoid blood clots.

Surgeries and other procedures

Adults with congenital heart disease can receive treatment through a variety of surgeries and treatments.

  • Implantable heart devices. The complications that are related to congenital heart disease in adults may be prevented through devices such as a pacemaker that controls the heart rate or an implantable cardioverter-defibrillator or ICD which corrects irregular heartbeats that could be life-threatening.
  • Catheter-based treatments. Adults with some forms of congenital heart disease may be treated with catheters, which are small, flexible tubes making a repair possible without requiring open heart surgery. A catheter is inserted by the doctor through a blood vessel, typically in the groin, and directed to the heart. Multiple catheters may occasionally be utilized. Once the catheter is in position, the doctor inserts tiny tools through it to fix the congenital heart abnormality.
  • Open-heart surgery. An open-heart surgery can be required to correct a congenital cardiac abnormality if catheter treatments are ineffective.
  • Heart transplant. A heart transplant may be a possibility if a major cardiac problem cannot be fixed.

Congenital heart disease in adults