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Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease is characterized by a defect of the heart or nearby blood vessels that develops prior to birth. While some defects may be detected in the fetus or shortly after birth, it’s not uncommon for congenital heart defects to hide until adulthood. The CDC estimates that anywhere from 650,000 to 1.3 million adults have congenital heart defects. At Phoenix Heart Center, cardiologists are equipped and experienced in treating adults with congenital heart defects.

There are many types of congenital heart defects. Below are a few of the more common heart defects that may develop prior to birth:

  • Congenital valve disease, including bicuspid aortic valve disease (BAVD), pulmonary valve stenosis, aortic valve stenosis, and Ebstein’s anomaly.
  • Atrial septal defect (ASD) and patent foramen ovale (PFO), a hole in the wall between the heart’s two upper chambers. (These two conditions are similar. However, the easiest explanation is that an ASD is a permanent hole while a PFO is not.)
  • Coarctation of the aorta, a narrowing of the aorta immediately outside the heart.
  • Patent ductus arteriosus, abnormal blood flow between two of the heart’s major arteries.
  • Ventricular septal defect, a hole in wall between the heart’s two lower chambers.

Symptoms of Congenital Heart Disease

Congenital heart disease could cause a variety of symptoms, depending on the type and severity of the defect. General symptoms of cardiovascular disease apply:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Spells of dizziness or fainting
  • Fatigue
  • Inability to sustain exercise/activity

Symptoms may worsen during teenage and adult years. Remember, many affected individuals are unaware of their congenital heart defect until their adult years. If you’re experiencing these symptoms, let your physician know. You may wish to take a free Heart Disease Risk Assessment test.

Diagnosing Congenital Heart Disease

The method used for diagnosing a congenital heart disease depends largely on patient symptoms and medical history. Diagnostic tests, performed by the cardiologists at Phoenix Heart Center, include echocardiograms, cardiac catheterization (with unique radial approach), chest x-rays, electrocardiograms, lab-blood testing, nuclear studies and tomography, and more. Read more about these diagnostic tools and procedures.

Treating Congenital Heart Disease

Again, congenital heart disease treatment options vary widely, depending on the precise nature of the defect/disease. Many congenital heart defects can be repaired in adults using a minimally invasive endovascular approach. When possible, cardiologists at Phoenix Heart Center prefer to use a cardiac catheterization technique to repair heart defects. Cardiac catheterization can be used to view the structure of the heart muscle and surrounding veins; it can even be used to repair holes (such as the patent foramen ovale) and open narrowed blood vessels (such as coarctation of the aorta).


When it comes to cardiac catheterization, the cardiologists at Phoenix Heart Center are leading the way in Arizona. In 2011, the practice established Arizona’s first “Radial First Program,” which allows for cardiac catheterization to be performed through the radial artery on the wrist (as opposed to the femoral artery in the groin). Learn more about this innovative procedure at Phoenix Heart Center.


For more information about diagnosing and treating congenital heart disease, contact a Phoenix Heart Center practice location convenient to you. Now serving Central Phoenix, Mesa, and Tempe. You can also schedule an appointment online.




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