Rapid heartbeat and congenital heart defects

Babies and children normally have a faster heartbeat than adults. Normal resting heartbeat ranges for children are listed in the table below.1

Normal resting heartbeat ranges for children
Age Beats per minute


120 to 170

0 to 3 months

100 to 150

3 to 6 months

90 to 120

6 to 12 months

80 to 120

1 to 3 years

70 to 110

3 to 6 years

65 to 110

6 to 12 years

60 to 95

12 years

55 to 85

When congenital heart defects lead to heart failure, the heart rate is often much faster than normal. Some heart defects make it harder to get enough oxygen into the blood from the lungs. Other heart defects make it harder for the heart to pump enough blood out to the body. Either kind of problem can cause the heart to beat faster as it tries to get enough oxygen-rich blood to the body.

Some heart problems cause the heart rate to be slower than normal. Heart block refers to an abnormality in the way electricity passes through the normal electrical pathways of the heart. The abnormality "blocks" the electrical impulse from continuing through the normal pathways and usually results in a slower heart rate. Heart block may be present from birth. But in general slow heart rates are not common for congenital heart defects. Slow heart rates are more likely to be from heart problems that happen after birth, such as when a severe illness damages the heart muscle.


  1. Mathers LH, Frankel LR (2007). Pediatric emergencies and resuscitation. In RM Kleigman et al., eds., Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics, 18th ed., pp. 387–405. Philadelphia: Saunders Elsevier.

Last Updated: October 12, 2009

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