Congenital heart disease (for parents): what is the outlook?

Written by: Dr Alessandro Giardini
Edited by: Laura Burgess

Congenital heart disease is a large group of heart conditions or defects that develop in the foetus when the baby is in the mother's womb. Approximately, one child in every 100 is affected by congenital heart disease at birth. Here, we asked one of our leading paediatric cardiologists Dr Alessandro Giardini about the causes, treatment options and outlook for a baby or child diagnosed with congenital heart disease.

A baby holding their mother's index finger. Some babies are born with congenital heart disease.

What causes congenital heart disease?

The causes of congenital heart disease can be multiple. In some families, there can be a genetic defect that can cause the abnormal development of the heart. In other families, there can be diabetes during pregnancy or exposure to drugs or substances during pregnancy. In other cases, there is no clear cause for the abnormal development of the heart.

What are some treatment options for congenital heart disease?

Children with congenital heart disease will need to have medications administered to help their heart in the process of healing. In some children, an intervention is required. This intervention could be either in the form of keyhole surgery with the use of special techniques where we can, for example, enlarge narrow valves or close holes in the heart.

In other cases, unfortunately, especially in smaller children, these keyhole options are not available and the child may require open-heart surgery or non-bypass surgery. This is typically used for newborns and very small children that require their condition to be treated. Most children make a very quick and full recovery and they have an excellent quality of life afterwards.

Can congenital heart disease be cured?

A large number of cardiac defects will improve over time and they may self-resolve as nature tries to heal the heart itself. Some children may require treatment for this, which can be either in the form of medications or operations or keyhole procedures. Nowadays, we can cure most forms of cardiac defects with very good results.

If you would like Dr Giardini to work with your little one, you can make an appointment to see him via his Top Doctor’s profile here. Can’t make it in person? Dr Giardini is also available for a video call using our e-Consultation tool, which is also accessible on his profile.

By Dr Alessandro Giardini
Paediatric cardiology

Dr Alessandro Giardini is an award-winning and leading cardiologist based at the world-renowned Great Ormond Street Hospital (GOSH) in London, specialising in paediatric cardiology. An expert on congenital heart disease, Dr Giardini is the lead of inpatient services at GOSH, and also provides outpatient consultations for all manner of heart problems in children, including palpitations, heart murmurs, chest pain, and heart valve issues. He also privately practices at The Harley Street Clinic Children's Hospital, The Portland Hospital and Chase Lodge Hospital, alongside Bupa Cromwell Hospital.

Dr Giardini's experience in congenital heart disease extends to the diagnosis and management of a wide range of defects in babies, children and adolescents. His GOSH unit has pioneered techniques including transcatheter pulmonary valve replacement and Dr Giardini's involvement in paediatric cardiac research means his patients are treated according to the latest and most successful techniques.

Dr Giardini, who is a Top Doctors 2021 award winner, also leads specialist clinics for children with paediatric hypertrophic cardiomyopathy. He's highly regarded for expertise in providing guidance for children and adolescents with documented cardiac disease and those with symptoms during exercise, such as palpitations, chest pains or fainting/syncope.  

His philosophy is a patient-centric approach, delivering treatment with compassion and understanding, and personalising his consultations and treatment to each child and their family.    ​

Dr Giardini has a medical degree and a PhD (in the pathology of heart failure in patients with congenital heart defects) from the University of Bologna's (Italy) School of Medicine. Dr Giardini went on to undergo extensive training in paediatric cardiology both in Bologna and in San Francisco, USA. He is actively involved in research, having published over 120 articles in peer-reviewed journals.  

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Overall assessment of their patients

  • Related procedures
  • Heart attack
    Hypertension (high blood pressure)
    Heart failure
    Injury valves
    Heart murmur
    Ambulatory electrocardiogram (Holter)
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