Congenital heart disease has many causes, including genetics, maternal diabetes, and family history. Congenital heart disease refers to cardiovascular disorders that babies are born with. While some congenital heart problems are asymptomatic, others can cause significant symptoms. If your baby's pediatrician suspects a congenital defect, he or she may refer the child to a cardiology pediatrician services specialist for further evaluation and treatment. Here are some things typically included in a cardiology workup to help physicians diagnosis pediatric congenital heart disease.


An electrocardiogram, or EKG, is a non-invasive test that can reveal abnormal heart rhythms, also known as arrhythmias. While cardiac arrhythmias can be caused by electrolyte imbalances and certain infections, they may be indicative of a congenital heart defect. It is important to note, that while an electrocardiogram can alert the pediatric cardiologist to the presence of an arrhythmia, it does not mean that your child has a congenital heart disorder.

If the electrocardiogram is abnormal, the physician may order blood tests such as a complete blood count and a blood chemistry profile. These tests can help rule out infections and potassium abnormalities which can cause an arrhythmia. If the blood tests do not reveal a cause for the arrhythmia, further testing may be recommended.


An echocardiogram takes pictures of the heart and its supporting structures. It can help the pediatric cardiologist diagnose congenital heart diseases, such as those associated with structural problems of the heart chambers, ventricles, and valves. Even though an echocardiogram is a diagnostic imaging test, it does not use radiation to capture the images. Instead, soundwaves, like those used in ultrasound technology, are used to take real-time pictures of the cardiovascular system.

A common congenital heart defect known as a ventricular septal defect can often be diagnosed with an echocardiogram. Also known as a "hole in the heart, a ventricular septal defect can be successfully treated with heart surgery or with a procedure known as cardiac catheterization. Smaller holes in the heart often close on their own, and in these cases, only frequent monitoring is needed. Medium holes in the heart that don't require surgery are often treated with cardiovascular medications to help promote optimal blood flow to the heart.

If your child's pediatrician suspects congenital heart disease, then the above diagnostic tests may be recommended. When congenital heart problems are detected and treated early on, they are less likely to raise the risk for hypertension, heart failure, and stroke, or produce symptoms such as shortness of breath, fatigue, swelling of the limbs and abdomen, and chest pain.

Contact your local pediatrician services provider to learn more.