Congenital Heart Failure | Tampa General Hospital


Congenital heart failure can be the end result when birth defects cause heart problems. 

Congenital heart failure, a complication of congenital heart disease, occurs when someone’s heart fails to pump blood as well as a healthy heart normally would, resulting in insufficient blood flow throughout the body. This can cause a backup of blood and fluid and prevent certain areas of the body from receiving the blood they need to properly function.

Causes of Congenital Heart Failure

Congenital heart disease is an umbrella term for a wide array of heart problems that are present from the time of birth. Examples of birth defects that could lead to congenital heart failure include:
  • Coarctation of the aorta
  • Complete atrioventricular canal defect
  • D-transposition of the great arteries
  • Ebstein’s anomaly
  • Septal defects (including atrial septal defects and ventricular septal defects)
  • Single ventricle defects (including hypoplastic left heart syndrome, pulmonary atresia and tricuspid atresia)
  • Tetralogy of Fallot
  • Total anomalous pulmonary venous connection
  • Truncus arteriosis
  • Valve defects (including atresia, regurgitation and stenosis)
Congenital heart defects like these can weaken the heart and make it more difficult for the heart to pump blood, leading to congenital heart failure.

Symptoms of Congenital Heart Failure

The symptoms of congenital heart failure will vary from one patient to another. Infants with congenital heart failure often experience fatigue, a quickened breathing rate and failure to thrive. They may also sweat while they’re eating.

In addition to these symptoms, older children and adults may also experience:
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing sometimes accompanied by coughing or wheezing
  • Swelling within the abdomen, legs, ankles and feet
  • Excessive sweating during physical activity
  • Weight gain caused by excess fluids
  • Fainting

Diagnosing Congenital Heart Failure

Physicians can diagnose congenital heart failure by performing a physical examination and ordering tests such as:

  • Blood tests
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Chest X-rays
  • Echocardiograms
  • Electrocardiograms (EKGs)
  • Urine tests

Treatment for Congenital Heart Failure

Physicians often treat congenital heart failure by prescribing medication. In some cases, congenital heart failure will require surgery to repair the underlying heart defect, implant a pacemaker or perform a heart transplant.

The experienced team at Tampa General Hospital’s Heart and Vascular Institute treats congenital heart failure. We perform a high volume of heart transplants each year and have also been recognized as a leader in the implantation of circulatory support and ventricular assist devices (VADs), making us a top choice for your care.