WellSpan Home

Congenital Heart Defects: Complications

Topic Overview

Most children and adults who have corrected congenital heart defects lead healthy lives. But complications sometimes develop.

These complications may start when the child is very young, or they may start in adulthood.

Heart problems

Heart failure . This is a major complication of congenital heart defects. Heart failure may develop many years after the defect is diagnosed. It can cause a variety of symptoms, such as severe difficulty breathing or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias).

Heart murmur . Many people with congenital heart defects have a humming sound (heart murmur) that can be heard with a stethoscope even after the heart defect is repaired. Most heart murmurs are harmless ("innocent"). But sometimes a heart murmur is abnormal and is a sign of a heart problem. During exams, the doctor may check for a murmur that could be a sign of a problem.

Heart rate and rhythm problems. These heart problems can happen in children and adults who have congenital heart defects. There are many types of rate and rhythm problems that can happen. They can be irregular rhythms, such as atrial fibrillation. Or they can be a fast heart rate, such as a type of tachycardia.

Heart valve problem. If a child had a heart valve replacement, the child may need to have the valve replaced again when he or she gets older. Abnormally shaped heart valves, in particular, can lead to complications such as endocarditis or narrowed or leaky heart valves.

Endocarditis. A congenital heart defect can raise the risk of an infection in the heart called endocarditis. To prevent this infection, your child needs to take excellent care of his or her teeth and watch for signs of skin infections. If your child is at high risk, he or she might take antibiotics before having certain dental and surgical procedures that could put bacteria or fungi into your child's blood. The antibiotics lower the risk of getting endocarditis.

Other problems

A heart defect might cause a child to not grow normally. Complications include:

  • Slowed growth and smaller-than-average adult height and weight.
  • Developmental delays or disabilities. The doctor will track your child's development over time and may do screening tests. It's also good for you to learn what milestones are expected for children at each age. This can help you spot problems early or feel better about how your child is doing.
  • Clubbing , a condition in which the ends of the fingers and toes swell and the nails bulge outward.
  • Polycythemia , which is an abnormal increase in the number of red blood cells. This may increase a person's risk for blood clots that can cause heart attacks or strokes.
  • Problems with the brain and nerves. An example of this is infection in the brain. This can happen as a result of bacteria in the blood that gets into the brain tissue.
  • An increased risk of blood clots.

References

Other Works Consulted

  • Baltimore RS, et al. (2015). Infective endocarditis in childhood: 2015 update: A scientific statement from the American Heart Association. Circulation, 132(15): 1487-1515. DOI: 10.1161/CIR.0000000000000298. Accessed November 24, 2015.

Credits

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
E. Gregory Thompson, MD - Internal Medicine
Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
Specialist Medical ReviewerLarry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology

Current as ofFebruary 23, 2018


Are you sure you would like to cancel?

All information will be lost.

Yes No ×

About the provider search

This search will provide you with WellSpan Medical Group and Northern Lancaster County (Ephrata) Medical Group primary care physicians and specialists. If we don’t have a WellSpan Medical Group physician to meet your criteria, the search will expand to include community physicians who partner with WellSpan Medical Group physicians through the WellSpan Provider Network or provide care to patients on the Medical Staffs of WellSpan’s Hospitals.

×

Schedule Your Next Appointment Online with MyWellSpan

Use your MyWellSpan patient portal any time to view available appointments, and pick the date and time that best suits your schedule.

Go to MyWellSpan

New to this practice?

If you don't have a WellSpan primary care provider and would like to schedule a new patient appointment with a provider who is accepting patients, just log into your MyWellSpan account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to see the offices that are accepting new patients in relation to your zip code. If you are not enrolled in MyWellSpan, go to https://my.wellspan.org, call 1-866-638-1842 or speak with a member of the staff at a participating facility to sign up. New patient scheduling not available at all practices/programs.

Already a patient at this practice?

If you already have a relationship with a WellSpan practice, simply log into your account, and go to the Appointment Center section. As you progress through the scheduling process, you will be able to schedule an appointment with any provider or practice that already counts you as a patient. Online scheduling varies by practice/program.

×