Which factors put your child at risk for congenital heart disease?

Any congenital defect is a medical problem that is present at birth, rather than acquired later in life. A congenital heart defect may affect the heart’s valves or interior walls. This sort of diagnosis is frightening for parents, but in many cases, congenital heart disease is minor and doesn’t cause any symptoms. Even when a heart defect is serious, treatment is available through our Heart Center at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center in Las Vegas.

Genetic risk factors of heart defects
In some cases, heart defects can run in families. It’s possible for a child to have a higher risk of congenital heart disease if a parent also has it, but it’s not a guarantee a parent with a heart defect will pass it along to their child.

Congenital heart disease is often caused by genetic conditions, especially Down syndrome. According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute , about half of all children who are born with Down syndrome are also born with congenital heart defects.

Because of the possibility of a genetic cause of heart defects, some couples may choose to undergo genetic counseling. Genetic counseling is best done before pregnancy and works best if both parents do it. It involves testing a sample of blood for genetic problems that might cause heart defects.

Maternal risk factors of heart defects
Smoking during pregnancy leads to an increased risk of heart defects. Alcohol use and the abuse of recreational drugs also increase the risk. More research is needed regarding other possible maternal risk factors, but the following may have some influence:

  • Diabetes or lupus
  • Obesity
  • Rubella infection (German measles)
  • Phenylketonuria

Unknown cause of heart defects
All too often, the cause of congenital heart disease is unknown. When the cause of a medical condition is unknown, it’s often referred to as “idiopathic.” Individuals who were born with heart defects may decide to participate in research studies later in life, in order to help scientists learn more about the causes and risk factors.

The cardiologists and nurses at Heart Center at Sunrise Hospital and Medical Center care for patients as if they were family. Our state-of-the-art heart hospital in Las Vegas provides rapid medical interventions for emergency situations, as well as long-term, supportive care. You can request a physician referral by calling a registered nurse at (702) 233-5300.

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