Heart Structure Problem Present at Birth

A congenital heart defect is a problem with the structure of the heart that is present at birth. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect. The CDC estimates that congenital heart defects affect nearly 400,000 babies born in the United States each year.

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, your child’s heart is our top priority. Our dedicated Penn State Health Children’s Heart Group offers specialized heart care from our team of pediatric heart experts. We also provide a comprehensive range of services for early and accurate diagnosis, as well as the latest cutting-edge treatments.

The pediatric cardiac surgeons at the Penn State Health Children’s Heart Group are experienced with all types of congenital heart defects, including the various complex forms of single ventricle heart disease. Penn State Health Children’s Hospital has outstanding clinical outcomes that far exceed the national average. We manage more complex cases than most pediatric heart surgery programs.

Congenital Heart Defect Symptoms, Diagnosis and Outlook

A congenital heart defect is often discovered during pregnancy during an anatomy scan or other prenatal screening test. However, some babies have undetected congenital heart defects when they are born. Warning signs and symptoms include:

  • Blue-tinted nails
  • Blueish area around the lips
  • Excessive sleepiness
  • Tired during feedings
  • Unsteady or quick breathing

Some congenital heart defects are so mild that symptoms don’t appear until later in childhood. If your child’s pediatrician suspects your child has a congenital heart defect, they will refer you to our specialty Penn State Health Children’s Heart Group for a thorough evaluation and diagnosis. Our team uses echocardiogram and additional screening tests to diagnose a congenital heart defect in your child.

Many children with congenital heart defects receive treatment and go on to live independent lives. In more severe cases, congenital heart defects can cause additional health complications. It’s important to maintain routine visits with your child’s cardiologist to monitor your child’s condition and any changes to their health.

Our Experts in Care

The experts at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital are committed to providing our pediatric patients with comprehensive and multidisciplinary care.

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Why Choose Penn State Health Children’s Hospital for Care

Team Approach to Pediatric Cardiac Care

At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, our patients with congenital heart defects benefit from a multidisciplinary team approach from highly-trained specialists, including:

  • Anesthesiologists
  • Cardiac surgeons
  • Critical care physicians
  • Neonatologists
  • Pediatric cardiologist
  • Pediatric intensivists
  • Specialized nursing staff

Early Diagnosis

The Penn State Health Children’s Heart Group works with obstetricians and maternal-fetal medicine specialists in the community to diagnose congenital heart defects as early as possible. Our specialists can travel to these doctor’s offices or you may visit Penn State Health Children’s Hospital. If we suspect an abnormality in utero, we will perform an evaluation – most often using a fetal echocardiogram or the portable transthoracic echocardiogram. Using those test results, together we will determine the best next steps for caring for your child.

High Survival Rates

The Penn State Health Children’s Hospital pediatric heat team is committed to providing exceptional care to your little one.

  • Survival rates for complex congenital heart cases surpass the national average
  • Our pediatric heart surgery program is ranked in the top 15 programs in the country in survival following pediatric heart operations

Out of the 1% of children who are born with a congenital heart defect, about 15% will require surgery in their first year of life. 

Intraoperative Transesophageal Echocardiography (TEE)

Our team uses intraoperative transesophageal echocardiography (TEE) and neuromonitoring for all cases. TEE procedures assist our surgeons in monitoring the heart’s function during surgery and help us evaluate the heart before and after surgery. Neuromonitoring assesses blood flow to the brain during open-heart surgery to prevent brain injury during the procedure.

Comprehensive, Specialized Cardiac Care

We know it can be frightening to have your child need heart surgery, but our expert team is here to provide exceptional care. At Penn State Health Children’s Hospital, our patients are our top priority.

We offer our patients comprehensive, specialized cardiac care, including:

  • Dedicated pediatric cardiac operating room with pediatric cardiac anesthesiologists
  • Pediatric cardiac intensive care unit with pediatric critical care physicians and staff for patient management before and after surgery
  • A large staff of pediatric cardiologists, including specialists in diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization, arrhythmia, echocardiography, cardiac MRI and CT scan
  • Pediatric cardiac catheterization laboratory adjacent to the operating room (hybrid room) for diagnostic, interventional and electrophysiology procedures

Support Groups

Support groups provide children and their families an opportunity to connect with others in similar situations. Learn more about the support groups offered at Penn State Health Children’s Hospital.

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Our Convenient Locations

Find the care your family needs, close to home, at one of our many locations throughout central Pennsylvania.

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