Frequently Asked Congenital Heart Problem Questions
Every day, our experienced team of cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons and vascular surgeons answer heart health questions from people in the community. You can review a list of Frequently Asked Questions on the topics below, or contact our heart experts to submit your own question.
Why should people who have hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) get genetic counseling?
HCM is primarily a hereditary/genetic condition that runs in families, affecting multiple generations; therefore, your family members (such as your parents, brothers, sisters and children) are likely at risk. Genetic testing may help identify the underlying cause of your HCM. It could help you better manage the disease and provide important information for your family members. If family members are at risk, monitoring of the heart -- even without symptoms -- is recommended: Early detection and diagnosis may help prevent, delay or lessen some Hypertrophic Cardiomyopathy complications.
I was born with an abnormal heart. Are there things I need to be worried about now?
Every year, more and more children born with heart defects are successfully treated and become healthy adults. Having a congenital heart defect is a lifelong journey, and it is important that you know how to care properly for your heart for your entire life. Depending on the type of heart defect you have, there are a number of things that occur more commonly in adults as a consequence of their congenital heart disease.
A heart specialist can help you figure out what happened when you were a child, and more importantly, what you need to be aware of for the future. Specifically, you may have special needs during a pregnancy, be at risk for a fast heart rhythm or even an infection of the heart. Diagnostic tests may not be as straightforward in you as they would in someone without a heart condition, and should be interpreted with your specific defect in mind. You may need a pacemaker, or even more heart surgery. Whatever your needs, you’ll want a specialist who understands your unique heart.
I am 37 and had a Mustard procedure done. I have chest pain, but no symptoms. What would cause this and how long will it last?
Chest pain is not uncommon in someone who has had a Mustard procedure. It may sometimes be caused by some strain on the right ventricle (the chamber acting as the main pump that was designed only to pump blood to the lungs), or at times residual scar tissue in the chest wall from prior surgery. In either case, it can be difficult to treat. The good news is that most of the time chest pain does not seem to be a sign of serious trouble, although you should make sure your doctors evaluate you for arrhythmia or signs of heart failure.
I’ve been hearing a lot about kids suddenly dying while playing sports. Why does that happen?
What you might be hearing about is hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. It’s an abnormal thickening of the heart muscle; the condition is usually inherited. Other things that can cause sudden cardiac death include abnormalities in the coronary arteries or flaws in the heart’s electrical system. A good gauge is your family health history: If anyone in your family suddenly died below the age of 30, then talk to your doctor.
The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that anyone who plays a sport in high school get a screening, which is usually a sports physical and completion of an AHA questionnaire. In a typical sports physical, a health care provider will take a thorough health history and listen to your child’s heart. If cardiac issues come up in a sports physical, your child will likely be referred to a pediatric cardiologist. Most conditions can be treated with lifestyle or exercise modification, or medication when necessary.
I was diagnosed with hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM) four years ago. What advances have there been made in minimally invasive surgeries for my condition?
During the last 20 years, we have made several advances in treating the symptoms caused by HCM. Alcohol septal ablation was developed in the mid-1990s, but the technique initially had a high rate of complications. Currently, through studying thousands of people undergoing this procedure, we have greatly improved its success rate. Also, new medicines have become available in treating HCM, and often we can treat your symptoms without surgical procedures.