patient-education article 2020-06-09

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How do doctors diagnose congenital heart disease (CHD)?

How doctors diagnose CHD depends on whether you have a family history of CHD and when your child starts to show symptoms.

If you have a family history of CHD:

  • Doctors can diagnose CHD through an ultrasound at 18-22 weeks of pregnancy. If the doctor finds CHD, they will work with you to develop a care plan for delivery and after birth. If your child shows signs after birth or during childhood:
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG) test. This test helps the care team learn more about your child’s heartbeat and how it works. This test does not hurt.
  • Physical exam
  • Review your child’s medical and family history
  • Other tests, such as an echocardiogram (echo, or a cardiac ultrasound), cardiac magnetic resonance imaging test (MRI) or a computed tomography scan (CT). An MRI and a CT scan are very detailed X-rays of the heart.

How do doctors treat CHD?

Treatment depends on the type of heart defect and whether your child is having symptoms. Some types of heart defects are small and will resolve (get better) on their own. Others might need to be fixed with different procedures, like surgery. The care team will talk with you about the right treatment for your child.

Rev. 11/2017. Mass General for Children and Massachusetts General Hospital do not endorse any of the brands listed on this handout. This handout is intended to provide health information so that you can be better informed. It is not a substitute for medical advice and should not be used to treatment of any medical conditions.

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