Complications of congenital heart defects

Most children who have corrected congenital heart defects lead normal lives. However, complications sometimes develop.

Heart failure is a major complication of congenital heart defects. Heart failure may develop many years after the defect is diagnosed. It can cause a variety of symptoms, such as severe difficulty breathing or irregular heartbeats (arrhythmias). For more information about signs and symptoms related to heart failure, see the topic Heart Failure.

Other complications of congenital heart defects may include:

  • Problems from heart valve replacements. As the child grows, new valves are needed.
  • Heart murmur . Many people with congenital heart defects have a humming sound (heart murmur) that can be heard with a stethoscope even after the heart defect is repaired. Some murmurs indicate a heart problem, but most heart murmurs are harmless and often are outgrown (sometimes called "innocent" heart murmurs). However, children with congenital heart defects need to have any murmur regularly checked by a health professional.
  • Clubbing , which is a condition where the ends of the fingers and toes swell, and the nails bulge outward.
  • Polycythemia , which is an abnormal increase in the number of red blood cells. This may increase a person's risk for blood clots that can cause heart attacks or strokes.
  • Problems with the brain and nerves. An example of this is infection in the brain. This can happen as a result of bacteria in the blood that gets into the brain tissue.
  • Slowed growth.
  • Blood clots.
  • Medicine side effects.

Last Updated: October 12, 2009

related physicians

related services

Bon Secours International| Sisters of Bon Secours USA| Bon Secours Health System

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. Privacy Policy. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2010 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.