Congenital Heart Defect Repair

Congenital Heart Disease (CHD), also known as congenital heart defect, is a problem with the structure of the heart. The word “congenital” means existing at birth. The defects result when the walls of the heart, the valves of the heart, and the arteries and veins near the heart don’t develop normally before birth. These defects may or may not have a disruptive effect on a person’s circulatory system. If they do, blood flow can slow down, go in the wrong direction or to the wrong place, or be blocked completely. Some of these defects are simple and many not cause problems; while others are complex or critical and may cause life-threatening complications.

Advances in diagnosis and treatment mean most babies who once died of congenital heart disease survive well into adulthood. However, signs and symptoms of the condition can occur in adults later in life, even those who had treatment as a child. It's also possible that problems in your heart, which weren't serious enough to repair when you were a child, have worsened and now require treatment. Therefore, it is important to check with your doctor to determine how often you should be seen as an adult.

Congenital heart defect repair is performed using the following methods: non-invasive (no incisions / small puncture / low to moderate sedation) or through open-heart surgery (large incisions of 8-10 inches long / involves dividing the breastbone / general anesthesia). The type of procedure chosen will vary according to your particular health condition.

How to prepare for the procedure

Before the procedure, your doctor and treatment team will explain to you what to expect before, during and after the procedure and potential risks of the procedure. Other recommendations include:

Talk to your doctor about

  • All medications, herbal products and dietary supplements you are currently taking and ask for their recommendations about each
  • Diabetes and how to adjust your medicine on the day of the procedure
  • Radiation exposure, especially for those that are pregnant
  • Any allergies to medicines, latex, tape, iodine, and anesthetic agents
  • Any history of bleeding disorders
  • Any implanted device (e.g. pacemaker or ICD)
  • Any body piercings on your chest or abdomen

Other suggestions

  • Eat a normal meal the evening before the procedure. However, do not eat, drink or chew anything after midnight before your procedure. If you must take medications, only take them with sips of water
  • Leave all jewelry at home
  • Remove all makeup and nail polish
  • Wear comfortable clothing when you come to the hospital
  • If you normally wear dentures, glasses, or hearing devices at home, plan to wear them during the procedure

What to expect before the procedure

Before the procedure, your doctor may perform a variety of tests, including:

Diagnostic tests and procedures

What to expect during the procedure

Congenital heart defect repair length of procedure time varies according to the specific treatment option chosen (non-invasive or open-heart). In general:

  • You will change into a hospital gown
  • A nurse will start the intravenous (IV) line in your hand or arm allowing medications and fluids to be administered
  • Prior to starting the procedure, you will receive a local anesthetic to numb the catheter insertion site(s)

If you are having a non-invasive procedure (repair of an atrial septal defect)

  • The insertion site is usually a vein in the groin area
  • Once the local anesthetic has taken effect, a catheter (which includes a small device at its tip) will be inserted and guided into your heart’s septum
  • Once it reaches the septum, the device is deployed. This immediately plugs the hole
  • Once the device is secured, the catheter is withdrawn from the body and the insertion site is closed off with the use of a closure device or sutures

If you are having an open- heart procedure: If an individual’s condition can’t be fixed by using a non-invasive procedure alone, your doctor may combine this approach with open-heart surgery (e.g. mitral valve repair)

What to expect after the procedure

Non-invasive procedures may require a one night hospital stay, while open-heart procedures (e.g. mitral valve repair) will usually require a hospital stay of 4 to 5 days. Other recommendations include:

General guidelines

  • A nurse will monitor your vital signs, the insertion site, and circulation and sensation in the affected leg or arm
  • You must stay in bed for several hours as recommended by your doctor
  • Tell your nurse right away if you feel any chest pain or tightness, or any other pain, as well as any feelings of warmth, bleeding, or pain at the insertion site
  • Your doctor will give you instructions to follow during your recovery
Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
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Children's Hospital of New Jersey at Newark Beth Israel Medical Center
201 Lyons Avenue at Osborne Terrace
Newark, NJ 07112
(973) 926-7000
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Congenital Heart Defect Repair Treatment & Care

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