About Congenital Heart Problems

Congenital problems are present at birth. In the heart, these birth defects include:

  • Heart valve defects: Some of these slight variations in the shape or function of a heart valve cause no problems and need no treatment. Others, however, can lead to life-threatening problems.
  • Hole in the heart: Some people are born with a hole or incomplete closure in the septum, the muscular wall that separates the heart’s chambers and ventricles. This is called an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD).
  • Heart defects: Many other problems can affect the heart at birth, including underdeveloped ventricles and abnormalities involving the aorta, the body’s main blood vessel.

Symptoms include fainting, shortness of breath, difficulty exercising and poor circulation to limbs.

“I’m Ready to Live Again.”
Surgeons replaced Lois Green's heart valve without separating her breastbone or stopping her heart.

  • About 1 in 150 adults have congenital heart disease, which is a defect that was present at birth.
  • A congenital heart condition can affect the heart’s valves, chambers or main blood vessels.
  • Some defects are diagnosed and treated during childhood. Others remain undetected for years.

  • Fainting
  • Shortness of breath
  • Difficulty exercising
  • Poor circulation to the limbs
Advanced Treatments

  • By using minimally-invasive options, surgeons can repair the heart without separating the breast bone.
  • In some cases, a long, flexible tube (called a catheter) can access the heart via a blood vessel in the leg.
  • Catheters can repair heart defects, replace heart valves, and reopen blood vessels.

How We Can Help

Due to the dangers of open heart surgery, physicians used to take a “watch and wait” approach, opting for surgery only once a heart defect became life-threatening. At Lourdes Cardiovascular Institute, however, our cardiovascular surgeons specialize both in traditional techniques as well as the most advanced, minimally-invasive options. These options include:

Catheter-delivered treatments: A catheter (long thin tube) is inserted into a blood vessel in the leg and then guided toward the heart. These devices can be used to deliver a patch to close a hole in the heart, insert a new heart valve, or create wider openings in parts of the heart that are too narrow. In some cases, these approaches require only mild anesthesia. Patients are usually discharged from the hospital in as few as 24 hours.

TAVR: Short for Transcatheter Aortic Valve Replacement, TAVR is a type of minimally-invasive procedure that uses a flexible device (called a catheter) to replace a heart valve. Learn more about the TAVR procedure.

Robot-assisted surgery: A surgical team inserts video-guided instruments through tiny incisions between the ribs or just under the breastbone. Guided by the 3-D, high-definition view of the inside of the body, surgeons use a console to control the robotic “arms,” maneuvering ultra-flexible surgical instruments with precision. In some cases, surgeons may also use a stabilization device that allows them to operate on a beating heart, reducing the risk of stroke and other complications. Learn more about robotic surgery.