About the Heart and Your Child's Heart Disease

At the Heart Institute at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we believe knowledge is power. Learning more about your child's heart problem gives you the power and strength to get through such a scary time.

Our Family Guide to Your Child's Heart Care may help ease your fears.

You and your child can learn how the heart works and what types of heart diseases are common in kids.

How the Heart Works

  • The Healthy Heart — read about the structures of a healthy heart and how they work.
  • Heart Disease Glossary — find common terms that you may hear us use at the Heart Institute.
  • Heart Diagrams — ask your child's heart doctor at your next visit to draw a picture of how your child's heart functions.

What Type of Heart Disease Does My Child Have?

There are two main types of heart problems in children — congenital and acquired.

Congenital heart disease or defects (CHD)

CHD occurs before birth when the baby's heart is forming. Doctors don't know what causes or how to prevent most of these problems.

For every 1000 births, six to eight babies are born with heart defects.

Many mild defects don't need treatment. But more moderate or severe defects do require treatment.

Acquired heart disease

This type of heart disease appears after birth, often from a disease, virus, or bacteria.

Rheumatic fever is the most common cause of acquired heart problems in kids. But in some cases, doctors can't find a cause.

Heart Disease in Children vs. in Adults

There's a huge difference between heart disease (congenital or acquired) in kids and the types of heart diseases that affect adults.

Adults have coronary artery disease that may cause heart attacks.

Children don't have coronary artery disease. And in most cases, their heart disease doesn't cause heart attacks.

Will I Have Another Child with Heart Disease?

Some parents question whether having one child with heart disease will increase the chance of having another child with a heart problem.

If you have no other relatives with CHD, the risk is only slightly greater.

This fact shouldn't scare you or stop you from planning to have another child.

If you would like to learn more, we're happy to talk with you.

Call the Heart Institute at UPMC Children's at 412-692-5540.

You can also learn more about congenital heart disease from the American Heart Association.