Congenital Heart Defects
Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital Heart Defects Treatment

How are congenital heart defects treated?

The type of treatment will depend on which type of congenital heart defect you or your baby has and how serious it is. Most simple congenital heart defects will get better over time and do not require treatment at all. However, critical congenital heart defects often require treatment.


Medicine is often used if your baby has a specific type of congenital heart defect called patent ductus arteriosus. Usually, patent ductus arteriosus goes away on its own, however, sometimes medicine is needed to close the patent ductus arteriosus in premature infants.

  • Indomethacin or ibuprofen triggers the patent ductus arteriosus to constrict or tighten, which closes the opening
  • Acetaminophen is sometimes used to close patent ductus arteriosus


Cardiac catheterization is a common procedure that is sometimes used to repair simple heart defects, such as an atrial septal defect and patent ductus arteriosus, if they do not get better on their own. It may also be used to open heart valves or blood vessels that are too narrow.

In this procedure, a thin, flexible tube called a catheter is put into a blood vessel in the groin or neck. The tube is then threaded to the heart. Possible risks of cardiac catheterization include bleeding, infection, and pain where the catheter was put into the body, and damage to blood vessels.


In heart surgery, a surgeon opens the chest to work directly on the heart. Surgery may be required for many reasons:

Surgeries that are sometimes needed to treat congenital heart defects include:

Heart transplant

Children may receive a heart transplant if they have a complex congenital heart defect that cannot be repaired surgically or if the heart fails after surgery. Children may also receive a heart transplant if they are dependent on a ventilator to breathe or have severe symptoms of heart failure. Some adults with congenital heart defects may eventually need a heart transplant.

Palliative surgery

Some babies are too small or not strong enough to have heart surgery. Instead, they must have palliative surgery, or temporary surgery, to improve oxygen levels in the blood prior to heart surgery. During palliative surgery, the surgeon installs a tube that creates an additional pathway for blood to travel to the lungs to get oxygen, called a shunt. The surgeon removes the shunt when the baby’s heart defects are fixed during the full repair.

Ventricular assist device

This device is a mechanical pump that supports heart function and blood flow in people who have weakened hearts However, the abnormal structure of the heart in people with a congenital heart defect can make these devices difficult to use.

Total artificial heart 

A total artificial heart is a pump that is surgically installed to provide circulation and replace heart ventricles that are diseased or damaged. The ventricles pump blood out of the heart to the lungs and other parts of the body. Machines outside the body control the implanted pumps, helping blood flow to and from the heart. A total artificial heart may be needed instead of a ventricular assist device in people with a complex congenital heart defect.

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