What are Congenital Heart Defects?
Congenital heart defects can be structural abnormalities in the heart that are present at birth (problems with the "plumbing"). Congenital heart defects also can problems with the heart's rhythm (or "electrical" problems).

Structural defects can be as "simple" as a small hole between the upper chambers (the atria) of the heart, or as complex as a "single-ventricle defect," in which half of the heart fails to develop completely while the baby is still in the womb. Rhythm or conduction problems can include various degrees of "heart block," which affect the way the electrical impulses travel through the heart to create a steady, healthy pace and rhythm. 

Congenital heart defects are equal opportunity birth defects -- they occur in average of 1 in 100 births and they do not care about the family's race, ethnicity or socio-economic status. Congenital heart defects are the most common of all birth defects. In other words, CHDs can happen to any family, any time.

We come from all walks of life. We speak different languages, eat different foods, worship different gods, play different sports, live different lives. But one thing brings us together and makes us family -- we all have been affected by congenital heart disease and other pediatric heart disease,s and we are living and thriving every day because we have each other to lean on.

Most Common Birth Defect
We hear a lot about acquired heart disease (coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, etc.), but not many people know that congenital heart defects are the most common birth defect -- more common than any other birth defect, including cleft lip and palate, club foot, spina bifida, and others.

Although pregnant women routinely have prenatal screenings for neural tube defects (such as spina bifida) and chromosomal abnormalities such as Down syndrome, their babies often are not screened for heart abnormalities. Early diagnosis and treatment lead to better outcomes. 

Resources about Congenital Heart Defects
There are many web-based resources out there to learn more about congenital heart defects: 

Consider this:
  • An average of 1 in 100 babies are born with a congenital heart defect.
  • Congenital heart defects are the No. 1 cause of birth-defect-related deaths among infants younger than 1 year old.
  • More than half of those who have a CHD will need at least one invasive surgery in their lifetime.
  • Of the 40,000 babies born with a CHD, about 4,000 — or 10% — of them will die before their first birthday.
  • Twice as many children die each year from complications of CHD than from all forms of childhood cancer combined. 
  • People with congenital heart defects need lifelong care from a pediatric/congenital heart cardiologist, who specializes in congenital heart disease. (Typical adult cardiologists are not always the best choice for congenital heart care.)
  • There are an estimated 1.5 to 2 million adult CHD survivors in the United States. Now more than ever, people with congenital heart disease are living longer, more active, more normal lives. 
  • For the first time ever, more than 50% of the CHD survivors are adults.
  • About 10% of all CHD cases evaluated in an adult congenital heart clinic are first diagnosed in adulthood — that means there are adults walking around today who have undiagnosed congenital heart defects.
  • Advances in treatment and care make it possible for patients to undergo less invasive procedures than open-heart surgery.
Sources: The Children's Heart Foundation, American Heart Association, March of Dimes

For more information about Broken Hearts of Florida and to find out if there are Broken Hearts families in your area, contact us:


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