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Congenital Heart Defects

Congenital heart defects (CHD) are defects in the heart or blood vessels that exist from birth. They occur in about 1 percent of babies. Congenital heart defects usually result in abnormal or obstructed blood flow through the heart such as:

  • Obstructive defects in which a vessel is narrowed or a valve is defective so blood doesn't flow properly
  • Cyanotic defects are the result of blood having low levels of oxygen causing a blue tint to the skin
  • Septal defects are openings in the wall between the right and left sides of the heart which allows blood to improperly flow between the right and left chambers of the heart

Thanks to advances in diagnosis and treatment of CHD in children, 90 percent of these patients now live to adulthood. With appropriate care, adults with CHD can live longer, fuller lives.

Treatments we offer

A common congenital heart defect is an opening in the wall (or septum) between the right and left sides of the heart which allows blood to improperly flow between the right and left chambers of the heart. Depending on the location and severity of the opening, the condition can go undiagnosed for a long time, even into adulthood.

  • With an atrial septal defect (ASD) the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart (atria) did not completely close during fetal development, leaving a hole.
  • The ductus arteriosus is part of fetal circulation. It normally closes soon after birth. When it remains open, patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) allows blood to improperly flow from the aorta to the pulmonary artery.
  • A patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a flap-like opening between the upper chambers of the heart. While in the uterus, this opening provides proper circulation to the baby. After birth, the foramen ovale should close naturally. When it doesn't, there can be a risk of blood clots or stroke.

Treatment for congenital heart defect.Gundersen was among the first to use an innovative procedure to close these defects using a special closure device attached to a catheter. The catheter is inserted into a vein and advanced into the heart and through the hole or defect. The device is slowly pushed out of the catheter allowing each side of the device to open up and cover each side of the defect, like a sandwich. Once the device is in proper position, it is released from the catheter. Over time, heart tissue grows over the implant, and becomes part of the heart.

Why choose Gundersen?

  • Experience - Gundersen has the largest and most comprehensive heart program in the Tri-State Region, providing a full range of exceptional heart care for patients of all ages.
  • Pediatric cardiology specialist - Caring for children with both congenital and acquired heart disease.
  • World renowned heart surgeons - Our surgeons were among the first to use minimally invasive techniques to repair some congenital heart conditions such as heart defect closures.
  • Connections - Our Pediatric Cardiology team works closely with colleagues in Madison, Milwaukee, Minneapolis, Rochester and Iowa City for pediatric heart surgery. Generally, children can receive all follow-up and long-term care at Gundersen.
  • Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic - Gundersen has the area's only Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic to care for patients with congenital heart defects as they age into adulthood.
  • Research and clinical trials - Dedicated to continually improving care, our heart specialists participate in national and international research studies. We also participate in many clinical trials giving you access to cutting-edge treatments.
  • Cardiac rehab and exercise programs - Gundersen's Exercise Physiology team helps you after heart surgery, heart attack or other heart problems. Cardiac rehab includes medically supervised activity, ongoing monitoring and education about risk factor modification and heart-healthy lifestyle. This combination of exercise, education and socialization helps you achieve and maintain your highest level of function, health and independence.
  • Diagnostic, testing and cardiac imaging services - Gundersen offers a variety of state-of-the-art services to help diagnose, evaluate, treat and monitor your congenital heart defect.
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