Common Congenital Heart Defects

There are many different types of heart defects. Common forms of congenital heart defects include the following:

  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD) accounts for about 14–16 percent of congenital heart defects. A VSD is a hole between the left and right ventricles of the heart. The size of the hole can vary greatly from one patient to another.
  • Transposition of the great arteries accounts for about 10–11 percent of congenital heart defects. This defect results when the pulmonary artery and the aorta are switched. Transposition of the great arteries results in cyanosis—a serious deprivation of oxygen to the baby's system. Babies with this defect are usually born with a bluish coloring of the skin. Defects that result in cyanosis are referred to as cyanotic defects.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot is a combination of four different defects that occur together. TET or TOF, as it is also known, accounts for about 9–14 percent of congenital heart defects and is also a cyanotic defect. Babies who have this heart defect may show cyanosis at birth or sometimes later in infancy. Stressful periods such as crying or struggling to feed may bring on an episode of oxygen deprivation and result in a bluish coloring of the skin (cyanosis). The four separate defects of tetralogy of Fallot are
    • a hole between the ventricles (ventricular septal defect),
    • narrowing of the blood vessel that connects the heart to the lungs,
    • an aorta that is connected to both ventricles, and
    • thickened wall of the right ventricle.
  • Coarctation of the aorta accounts for about 8–11 percent of congenital heart defects. Also known as aortic coarctation, this defect occurs when a baby is born with an aorta that is more narrow than usual. It usually is diagnosed in early infancy, but sometimes is not found until childhood or later.
  • Atrioventricular septal defect accounts for about 4–10 percent of congenital heart defects. Also known as atrioventricular canal defect or endocardial cushion defect, this condition involves a large hole in the center of the heart between the upper and lower chambers. Instead of two separate valves, there is one, poorly-formed valve.
  • Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) accounts for about 4–8 percent of congenital heart defects. This condition affects the left side of the heart, which includes the mitral valve, left ventricle, aortic valve, and the aorta. HLHS involves incomplete development of one or more of these components of the heart.

Publication Review By: Stanley J. Swierzewski, III, M.D.

Published: 18 Nov 2008

Last Modified: 08 Sep 2015