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Congenital Defects Tutorial
Introduction Normal Cardiac Development Fetal and Postnatal Circulation Septal Defects Right Heart Lesions Left Heart Lesions Anomalies of Arteries and Veins Cardiac Transplantation References


Congenital heart defects (CHDs) are primarily structural alterations that arise due to errors in embryological development of the heart and great vessels. These resulting abnormalities range in severity from miniscule holes between chambers (that may subsequently close) to complex malformations that require multiple surgical corrections to allow the affected patient to survive. Some defects are so severe that even today, despite major advances in treatment (e.g., fetal surgery), death occurs in utero or in early infancy.

CHDs account for 28% of all major congenital anomalies and are estimated to occur in 8 out of every 1,000 live births. Of these, approximately 2 to 3 patients with CHDs will require expert cardiologic care. Although CHDs were previously the most common cause of death in infants associated with birth defects, breakthroughs in diagnostics, cardiothoracic surgery, and conceptual understanding has led to a continual decline in mortality rates. Currently, it is estimated that approximately 800,000 adults, or 1 in 150 people in the United States, are living with a corrected CHD. Yet these patients require the continued care of physicians and healthcare professionals, those that have an understanding of the natural progression of these defects and how to effectively care for them.

This CHD tutorial will cover the following sections in an effort to educate interested students, those in health professional programs, and/or patients:

  • Normal Cardiac Development—progression of events in utero resulting in a functional heart and corresponding vessels
  • Fetal and Adult Circulatory Patterns—comparison of circulation during fetal and adult life
  • Congenital Heart Defects: descriptions of the more common CHDs including relative anatomies, physiologies, clinical manifestations, and treatments
  • Cardiac Transplantation—overview of transplantation as an ultimate procedure for the CHD patient with an otherwise untreatable or highly progressed disease state
  • Prevalence—relative comparison of the incidence of various CHDs
  • Future—open-heart surgeries and mechanical circulatory devices in pediatric patients
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