About CHDs

Every week 12 babies are born with a CHD and over 550 major heart surgeries are carried out on children each year

CHDs are the most common serious birth abnormality in New Zealand.

A Childhood (or Congenital) Heart Defect (CHD) means a child is born with an abnormally structured heart and/or large vessels. Some hearts may have incomplete or missing parts, they could be put together the wrong way, may have holes between chamber partitions or may have narrow or leaky valves or narrow vessels. It is not unusual for a child to have multiple defects.

There are many types of congenital heart defects, and they range from relatively mild conditions that pose little threat to a child’s life, to those that require immediate surgery. There is no cure for a CHD, however there are surgical procedures which will improve the heart's function.

1 in every 100 babies born in New Zealand have a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD)

There are over 40 different types of heart defects.

Over 550 major heart surgeries are carried out every year on kiwi heart children

Some CHDs can be detected pre-birth by a Level II ultrasound or by a foetal echocardiogram. After birth, congenital heart disease is often first detected when the doctor hears an abnormal heart sound or heart murmur when listening to the heart. Depending on the type of murmur, he or she may order further testing such as – Echocardiogram, Cardiac catheterization, Chest X-Ray, Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG), Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) or other diagnostic testing.

The warning signs of Congenital Heart Defect in infants and children may include a heart murmur or abnormal heart sound, cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, fingernails and/or lips), fast breathing, poor feeding, poor weight gain, an inability to exercise and excessive sweating.

Matty’s Story

Listen to 12 year old heart child Matty talk about what its like to have a childhood heart defect.

Brian’s experience

Brian shares his experience of what it is like being a parent of a young boy with a childhood heart defect.

The following websites have some great information on CHDs, including videos of different heart defects and factsheets on different conditions:

Cincinnati Children's
Children's Heart Federation CHFED
Cove Point Foundation

You can also download the Cincinnati Children’s Hospital "Heartpedia" mobile app which is available for iPhone, iPad and Android users.