Congenital Heart Disease is actually a group of diseases affecting the heart chambers, values, or arteries near the heart. Some are so mild that they may be overlooked.
However, researchers say timing may be everything when it comes to diagnosis and treatment.
In most states, babies are screened for congenital heart defects, but sometimes CHD doesn’t show up right away.
“Some things do not become significant in terms of a patient having symptoms. until they’re older and things progress over time as their body grows.” said Dr. Tiffany Brazile, Internal Med Resident and Researcher at University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine.
The most severe case of CHD are often detected early and require surgery. But, mild defects, like a small hole in the heart, may be overlooked since they have symptoms that are similar to other conditions, like asthma.
“One of the most common symptoms is feeling shortness of breath, sometimes at rest, but more common with physical exertion.” Dr. Brazile said.
Dr. Brazile and fellow researchers have found that adult patients who are diagnosed with pulmonary hypertension or high blood pressure in the lungs may have a congenital heart defect that has gone undetected for years.
“It’s very important to always consider whether or not there’s a congenital heart disease that might be underlying another heart condition since it can manifest in other ways. And as patients get older, it might be something that’s not in the back of a patient or in some clinician’s mind.” Dr. Brazile said.
Dr. Brazile says delayed diagnosis of CHD can lead to serious complications, like pulmonary hypertension or heart failure, making it important for doctors to test for CHD regardless of a patient’s age.