How the heart works

The Heart

What are the heart disesases?

The Heart it's a muscle whose function is to pump blood  

The right side of the heart it's responsible for pumping oxygen-depleted blood to the lungs, so that once it is there, we can breathe.

The oxygenated blood returns to the left side of the heart, so that it pumps it towards the aorta artery, which will finally be in charge of carrying and delivering the oxygenated blood to each of the body's organs so that they can perform their various functions.

Una Heart disease is a medical term used to refer to any condition or disease of the heart. There are two types

The congenital heart diseases are those that originate during embryonic development from the womb, while acquired heart diseases are those that arise in a healthy heart at some point in life, after birth.


Can they be cured?


Although congenital heart disease cannot be cured, the vast majority of heart disease can be repaired with surgical procedures or catheterization. Cardiology follow-up is always essential to allow patients to obtain the greatest benefit from their treatments.

Can they be detected before birth?

The vast majority of congenital heart diseases can be diagnosed prenatally, through a review and analysis of the history(medical history),as well as with the help of a fetal echocardiogram,performed by a pediatric cardiologist fetal echocardiographer.

How can it be detected?

A congenital heart disease can be detected with a review and analysis of the background(medical history),a detailed physical examination as well as cabinet studies, such as:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG)
  • Echocardiogram
  • Computed tomography angiography (CT angiogram)
  • Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI)
  • Angiography (Cardiac Catheterization)
  • Tilt table test

What are the causes of congenital heart disease?

It is not yet known exactly what are the causes for congenital heart disease, however, there are some risk factors, including some maternal illnesses prior to pregnancy, certain infections during the gestation period, relatives with congenital heart diseases, exposure of parents to contaminants, and so on.

Warning signs



What are the signs that should tell me that my child has heart disease?

  • Has trouble breathing or it's breathing is fast and agitated.
  • Have trouble eating, get tired, or take many breaks during its feeding.
  • The skin, lips, tongue, or nails have a blue or purple like color
  • Has trouble gaining weight.
  • Sweats a lot while eating or sleeping.
  • Gets tired very quickly while exercising.

For any suspicion, go with your doctor so that he can make a proper evaluation and give you a diagnosis.

What is the treatment that should be given to a patient with congenital heart disease?

The treatment for your daughter or son's heart will depend on the cause of the problem. Most heart defects resolve on their own over time, and some can be resolved with medication. Sometimes surgery or other procedures, such as cardiac catheterization, may be needed. In some cases, the patient may need a combination of treatments.


For some heart problems, girls and boys can take medications that can be stopped after the problem has improved. Sometimes the medications are needed to be taken for many years, or even the entire life of the patient.


Heart surgery can provide a lifelong cure for some heart conditions. A heart surgeon will discuss the risks and benefits with you in detail. Sometimes surgery can be delayed until your child is older and stronger, which means they can tolerate better the surgery. Depending on the condition of your child, multiple operations may be necessary

In very rare cases where surgery, procedures, or medications do not help, a child may need a heart transplant.


Some procedures involve placing a thin tube, called a catheter, through the veins into the heart to treat the heart defect. Your daughter or son is given general anesthesia for this procedure.

Girls and boys with congenital heart disease should be evaluated by a specialists in pediatric cardiology.They diagnose heart problems and can help with management before and after repairing the heart problem. The specialists who correct the problem in the operating room are cardiovascular or cardiothoracic surgeons .

Defects that cause a lot of flow to the lung:

Defects that cause too little flow to the lung:

Defects that cause little flow through the body:

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Patent arterial duct (PAD)

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Before birth there is a vessel called the ductus arteriosus, which connects the aorta with the pulmonary artery. This structure closes almost immediately at birth.

When it doesn't close, there is blood going to the lungs that mixes from the aorta into the pulmonary artery. It usually occurs in premature patients, but it can exist in any child.

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

Watch video about Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

There is an abnormal hole in the septum that separates the upper chambers of the heart, causing the lungs to receive more blood than normal and become congested.

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

Watch video about Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

There is an abnormal hole in the septum that separates the lower chambers of the heart, which puts the high-pressure left chamber (or left ventricle) in communication with the low-pressure right chamber (or right ventricle) and causes the lungs receive more blood than normal.

Complete atrioventricular canal (CAVC)

Ver video sobre Canal Auriculoventricular (AV)

It is a complex malformation that involves various structures of the heart, including the septum that separates the upper chambers, the septum that separates the lower chambers, and the valves that separate the upper chambers from the lower chambers. These alterations in the structure of the heart cause short-circuiting of blood from the left side to the right side, congestion of the lungs and malfunction of the involved heart valves.

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

They are a group of malformations characterized by anatomical alterations that reduce, in some way, the flow of blood that reaches the lungs. These alterations generally occur due to a failure in the development of the structure of the right chambers of the heart or the pulmonary artery, and generally cause a lack of oxygenation of the blood in the body of the patients that manifests itself as a blue coloration of the tissues, including the skin, called cyanosis.

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Tricuspid Atresia

In this disease there is no tricuspid valve, which is what allows the flow of blood without oxygen, from the right atrium to the right ventricle, for it to be expelled from there to the lungs so it can be oxygenated and return to the left side of the heart.

Dextro-Transposition of the Great Arteries (d-TGA)

In a normal heart, the aorta connects to the left ventricle, while the pulmonary artery connects to the right ventricle. In the case of a transposition of the great arteries, the aorta is poorly connected with the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery with the left ventricle, causing the non-oxygenated blood to go directly to the body, while the oxygenated goes to the lungs.

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF)

Watch video about Tetralogy of Fallot

This heart disease is a combination of four heart defects:

      • Ventricular communication. A hole in the wall of the ventricles that causes non-oxygenated blood on the right side to mix with oxygenated blood on the left side.
      • Subpulmonary stenosis. The right ventricular outflow pathway is narrow. The obstruction is usually below the pulmonary valve, but the pulmonary valve, and the pulmonary artery itself, are generally also affected and narrow. This causes blood to pass from the right ventricle to the left ventricle through the orifice, or ventricular communication, that connects the two ventricles.
      • Thrust of the aorta. As a consequence of the narrowing of the pulmonary artery, the aorta is above the wall that separates the two ventricles and the interventricular communication. The non-oxygenated blood that is on the right side of the heart, and because of the difficulty it finds to cross to the pulmonary artery, then reaches the aorta directly and causes cyanosis.
      • Right ventricular hypertrophy. As a consequence of the difficulty of the ventricle to expel blood into the lungs, there is an increase in the thickness and size of the heart muscle of the right ventricle.

Truncus arteriosus

The heart normally has two separate arteries that allow blood to be carried to the lungs and the body; in the case of the truncus arteriosus, the aorta and pulmonary artery arise as just one vessel that eventually divides into two separate arteries.

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Stenotic Pulmonar Valve

Ver video sobre estenosis pulmonar

The pulmonary valve has a narrowing that makes it more difficult for blood to flow to the lungs. The extreme degree of pulmonary stenosis is pulmonary atresia.

Pulmonary atresia

In this heart disease, the pulmonary valve does not develop, and blood cannot pass from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery. As a consequence, the right ventricle is affected in its development and its size may be smaller than usual.

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Coarctation of the aorta

Watch video about Coarctation of the Aorta

The aorta, the main artery that carries oxygenated blood to the body, follows an upward path when leaving the heart, to later rotate, form an arch, distribute blood to the arms and head, and finally descend to carry blood throughout the body.

Coarctation of the aorta is a narrowing located at the junction between the part of the aortic arch and the descending part, often in the shape of an “hourglass”, which obstructs the flow of blood to the lower part of the body. This forces the left ventricle to work harder to transport blood through the narrowing. In newborns, coarctation of the aorta is frequently associated with a narrowing of the entire arch of the aorta, and surgical correction must therefore include not only the area of coarctation, but also the narrow area of the arch .

Aortic valve stenosis

The aortic valve, located between the left ventricle and the aorta, does not form properly and has a narrowing that makes it difficult to pump blood to the body, forcing the heart to work harder.

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Image credits: Boston Children's Hospital

Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS)

It is a combination of severe abnormalities of the left portion of the heart and the great vessels. The deficient development of the aortic valve, which communicates the left ventricle with the aorta, causes an inadequate development of these two structures as well. At birth, children affected with this malformation depend completely on a single ventricle, the right one, and that the ductus arteriosus, which normally closes spontaneously, remains open (usually thanks to the administration of a drug called prostaglandin), to maintain the circulation of blood to the entire body while the surgery called the Norwood procedure is performed.
The very complex surgical treatment consists of forming an exit route for the blood to the whole body, from the pulmonary artery (whose development is normal) and the poorly developed aorta.

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