What is congenital heart disease?

A congenital heart defect (CHD) is a type of heart problem a baby is born with. There are many types of CHDs and most have no known cause. They occur when the heart doesn’t form correctly during a baby’s development.

Examples of some common CHDs include:

  • patent ductus arteriosus
  • tetralogy of fallot
  • transposition of the great vessels
  • coarctation of the aorta
  • hypoplastic left or right heart syndromes
  • heart valve problems


Symptoms of CHD in children include:

  • a bluish tint to the skin, fingernails and lips
  • difficulty breathing
  • frequent lung infections
  • poor feeding or poor weight gain
  • inability to exercise or play


To help diagnose CHD, your child’s doctor may order one or more of the following tests:

  • echocardiogram (cardiac ultrasound)
  • electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • chest x-ray
  • cardiac catheterization


Treatment is based on the type and severity of the child’s heart condition. Children with a mild heart defect may not need any treatment. Others may be treated with medications, minimally-invasive procedures or surgery.

Learn more about Pediatric Cardiology services at Boston Children’s Health Physicians.