About Congenital Heart Defects



According to the March of Dimes, congenital heart defects are the #1 birth defect. In the US alone, over 25,000 babies are born each year with a congenital heart defect. That translates to 1 out of every 115 to 150 births. (To put those numbers into perspective, only 1 in every 800 to 1,000 babies is born with Downs Syndrome.)

Sometimes the defect is so mild that there are no outward symptoms. Some heart defects are simply innocent murmurs which resolve on their own. In other cases, it's so severe that the newborn becomes ill soon after birth. In still other cases, signs and symptoms occur only in later childhood. Severe heart defects often require multiple surgeries, a lifetime of medications and preventative measures to maintain a working heart and a healthy body. For some people, their only hope is a heart transplant.


According to the American Heart Association, heart defects accounted for 31.4% of all birth defect related deaths in 1992. From 1986 to 1996 death rates for congenital cardiovascular defects declined 18.2 percent. It is estimated that 300,000 children under age 21 will have congenital cardiovascular disease by 1996; 38% of them will have had one or more surgical procedures. As more children's heart abnormalities are successfully treated, research is needed to meet the medical needs of heart defect patients when they reach adulthood.

At least one-half million children in the U.S. have some form of cardiac problem (excluding high blood pressure). There are approximately one million people alive with congenital heart defects today. (AHA) Heart defects can be part of a wider pattern of birth defects. More than one-third of children with Down syndrome have heart defects. (March of Dimes)

According to the United Network of Organ Sharing (UNOS) in 1997 there were 277 hearts transplanted in children between 0 and 17 years of age. In 1998 70 7 children from 0-17 were listed with UNOS for a heart transplant. In 1998 265 heart transplants were performed.

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