Heart failure is not a common condition among babies and children in the United States. However, heart defects that are present at birth can increase the risk of heart failure in a baby or child. Approximately one in 100 children in the United States is born with a heart defect. Heart failure can also result from infections of the heart muscle or, very rarely, trauma to the chest.
In heart failure, the heart muscle is unable to meet the needs of the body for oxygen- and nutrient-rich blood. In children, heart failure treatment is aimed at correcting the underlying condition that is causing the disease.
In children, heart failure is most often caused by one of two factors:
- Congenital heart disease. Structural problems with the heart that are present at birth (congenital) can prevent the heart from pumping oxygen-rich blood properly throughout your body. These defects may be present in the heart muscle or the valves that regulate blood flow through the heart’s chambers. There are many forms of congenital heart disease—ranging from some that do not require treatment, to serious defects that must be treated immediately to save a baby’s life. The following congenital heart defects are commonly associated with heart failure, though other forms of congenital heart disease can also cause or contribute to the condition:
- Viral, bacterial or fungal infection of the heart. Certain types of viruses, bacteria, and fungi can cause inflammation of the heart muscle, called myocarditis. Viral infection is much more common than bacterial or fungal infections. Myocarditis can be mild and resolve without treatment. However, in some cases, inflammation of the heart muscle leads to damage of the tissue and a weakening of the heart’s ability to pump, resulting in heart failure.
Treatment of heart failure in children who have congenital heart defects often requires surgery or a catheter-based procedure. A catheter is a thin tube that is inserted into a blood vessel and guided to the area that needs treatment. To learn more about how different forms of heart defects are treated, visit Congenital Heart Disease.