Changing Landscape of Congenital Heart Disease

Circ Res. 2017 Mar 17;120(6):908-922. doi: 10.1161/CIRCRESAHA.116.309302.


Congenital heart disease is the most frequently occurring congenital disorder affecting ≈0.8% of live births. Thanks to great efforts and technical improvements, including the development of cardiopulmonary bypass in the 1950s, large-scale repair in these patients became possible, with subsequent dramatic reduction in morbidity and mortality. The ongoing search for progress and the growing understanding of the cardiovascular system and its pathophysiology refined all aspects of care for these patients. As a consequence, survival further increased over the past decades, and a new group of patients, those who survived congenital heart disease into adulthood, emerged. However, a large range of complications raised at the horizon as arrhythmias, endocarditis, pulmonary hypertension, and heart failure, and the need for additional treatment became clear. Technical solutions were sought in perfection and creation of new surgical techniques by developing catheter-based interventions, with elimination of open heart surgery and new electronic devices enabling, for example, multisite pacing and implantation of internal cardiac defibrillators to prevent sudden death. Over time, many pharmaceutical studies were conducted, changing clinical treatment slowly toward evidence-based care, although results were often limited by low numbers and clinical heterogeneity. More attention has been given to secondary issues like sports participation, pregnancy, work, and social-related difficulties. The relevance of these issues was already recognized in the 1970s when the need for specialized centers with multidisciplinary teams was proclaimed. Finally, research has become incorporated in care. Results of intervention studies and registries increased the knowledge on epidemiology of adults with congenital heart disease and their complications during life, and at the end, several guidelines became easily accessible, guiding physicians to deliver care appropriately. Over the past decades, the landscape of adult congenital heart disease has changed dramatically, which has to be continued in the future.

Keywords: congenital heart disease; epidemiology; morbidity; mortality.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Heart Defects, Congenital / diagnosis
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / epidemiology*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / etiology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / therapy
  • Humans