You may be one of the growing number of adults who was born with a heart defect. Today, because of improvements in early diagnosis during pregnancy, treatment in the early neonatal period, surgical techniques, and pre- and post-operative treatments, there are more adults than infants with congenital heart disease. According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, more than 1,000,000 adults in the United States have a heart defect.
In fact, today, some 90 percent of children born with a heart defect survive to adulthood. Just 70 years ago, in the 1940s, only 20 percent of children born with a heart defect lived to age 16.
Some of the more common congenital heart defects that may affect adults include:
While most adults with congenital heart disease now have better odds of living a normal life than ever before, special considerations remain. The first generations of adults with congenital heart disease have found themselves in uncharted territory: How does congenital heart disease affect adulthood?
- Continuing Care as an Adult: Adults with congenital heart disease may find themselves taking over their own care from family members for the first time. As an adult with congenital heart disease you may be wondering the following: What kinds of activities can I/ can’t I do? How can medical insurance be obtained and maintained? What kinds of employment will be OK? These are but a few of the important questions that adults with congenital heart disease will face.
- Fontan Procedure: Patients who as infants underwent a surgery called the Fontan procedure have only one functioning ventricle to pump blood to the body. These patients may begin to have serious complications as they reach adulthood and must aggressively manage their heart health.
- Pregnancy in Women with Congenital Heart Disease: Many women with congenital heart disease can safely become pregnant, though some defects present too great a risk to the safety of the mother and baby. If either the father or mother has a congenital heart defect, conversations with a physician can help determine the likelihood that a baby will also have congenital heart disease.