A congenital heart defect is a malformation of the heart existing at birth. This defect results from the failure of the heart or major blood vessel to mature normally during gestation. These defects may be readily apparent at birth or may be discovered later in life. Often children may remain without symptoms for many years.
Congenital heart disease affects twenty five to thirty thousand children a year. That is eight out of every 1000 birth each year. Medical and surgical treatment now offers these children an opportunity to grow and mature into adult life, children that previously could not be helped. Many of the defects can be completely repaired to return the heart to “normal” anatomy. Other defects require inventive ways of redirecting the blood flow in order to “physiologically” correct the defect.
Heart defects that are fixed during surgery are grouped into two categories: open and closed. Closed heart surgery implies that the “heart lung machine” or “bypass” machine is not used and the heart is visualized but not cut open. These procedures are done with the heart beating. Open-heart surgery implies that the heart needs to be opened in order to repair the defect and therefore the “bypass” machine is used to oxygenate and circulate the blood without using the heart or lungs.
All aspects of congenital cardiac care function as an interactive team at the University of Florida. The interventional catheterization lab, the cardiologists, the surgeons, the intensive care units, and nursing staff, must function as a single unit to provide the best care available for these complex patients. It is this integrated management that leads to effective communication and excellent patient care and outcomes.
UF Health thoracic and cardiovascular surgeons care for adult patients who have congenital heart defects. For children, they are cared for by pediatric cardiovascular surgeons with the UF Health Congenital Heart Center.