Congenital Heart Disease

For some, heart disease develops over time. For others, it is a part of life from the beginning. Congenital heart disease refers to a problem with the heart that is present at birth. We offer comprehensive, lifelong care for congenital heart disease. Our cardiologists use the most modern methods of detection for early diagnosis and treatment.

Whether you are an adult with congenital heart disease or caring for a child who has been diagnosed, The University of Kansas Health System offers complete care to support you.

About congenital heart disease

Congenital heart disease happens during pregnancy when the heart does not form properly, usually within the first 8 weeks of a baby's development. The condition is present at birth, but it may not be detected right away. In fact, many adults with congenital heart disease can live long lives without any lifestyle restrictions or symptoms. The only way to know for sure if you have congenital heart disease is to be evaluated by a cardiologist.

Types and symptoms

Congenital heart disease can take many forms – from simple to complex. Some of the most common types of congenital heart disease include holes in the heart, valve problems, chamber problems or vessel problems. Congenital heart defects, or problems with the heart's structure, are the most common type of congenital heart disease.

Symptoms will vary from person to person, depending on the number, type and severity of defects. For some, no symptoms are present. Others may develop symptoms later in life, while some will have symptoms at birth or in early childhood. Common signs of congenital heart disease include:

  • Heart murmur
  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Easily fatigued
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slow weight gain or growth (children)
  • Poor blood circulation
  • Rapid breathing
  • Cyanosis (bluish coloring of the skin, lips and fingernails)

Diagnosis and treatment

Congenital heart disease can be diagnosed during pregnancy, after birth or later in life. There are a number of cardiac diagnostic tools that can be used to identify a heart problem.

Once an accurate diagnosis is made, your cardiologist may or may not recommend treatment – depending on the severity of your condition. Some people can go untreated and live normal lives with no long-term effects to their heart health. Others with more serious conditions may need treatment right away. Possible treatment options include:

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The best cardiac care for your little one

Our advanced fetal medicine services provide some of the most innovative diagnostic tests available in the country. One test, developed by Dr. Weiner, is able to predict preterm birth with a 95-100% success rate.
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Why choose us

Congenital heart disease can affect your choice of career, decisions on pregnancy, physical activity and life plans. The University of Kansas Health System can provide you with information about maintaining your health, reducing your risk for heart disease and making appropriate lifestyle choices for your condition.

Our specialists include dedicated physicians with deep experience in congenital heart disease. Our nurses are also dedicated to this area of specialty and have the expertise to understand your particular condition and concerns.

Because we're an academic medical center, you'll benefit from a dedicated team of experts. Your care team may include cardiologists, surgeons, nurses and others. You will see both your cardiologist and one of our experienced clinical nurse specialists at every clinic visit. Nurses are on-call any time to address your concerns.

Your cardiologist can consult with other leading specialists who are located across the hall instead of across town. We also have regular conferences with Children's Mercy Hospital to coordinate care for younger patients and those in transition to adulthood.

Our hospital also benefits from a close relationship with specialists in pulmonary vascular disease. Our vascular specialists offer comprehensive medical services for pulmonary hypertension – a problem often associated with adult congenital heart disease.

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Turning Point

Turning Point offers free classes, programs and tools designed to empower and educate people affected by chronic or serious illness.

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Pregnancy and heart disease

Any woman with a known or suspected heart condition who is pregnant or planning a pregnancy should be evaluated by a cardiologist familiar with the effects of pregnancy, labor and delivery on the heart. The University of Kansas Health System offers specialized care for pregnant women with heart conditions. Our team of cardiologists, obstetricians, peripartum nurses and other specialists work together to manage the complex issues of pregnancy and heart disease. If you have a heart condition and are planning to become pregnant, call our heart specialists at 913-588-1227 for an evaluation.