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Mortality From Congenital Heart Defects

A recent CDC study showed that deaths from congenital heart defects have declined over time. This is important to understand how changes in treatment potentially have affected how long people are living with these conditions.

Graph: Annual Mortality Rates Resulting from Congenital Heart Defects, by Race-Ethnicity. DeathsCongenital heart defects (conditions present at birth that can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works) are a major cause of infant death (that is, a death during the first year of life). As medical care and treatment have advanced, the rate of death (also called mortality) due to congenital heart defects has been declining among infants and children. However, much less is known about mortality due to congenital heart defects among adults or trends in mortality due to congenital heart defects over time. Understanding mortality due to congenital heart defects provides important clues for how changes in the treatment of congenital heart defects potentially have affected how long people are living with these conditions.

A recent Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) study found that congenital heart defects were the main cause of death for 27,960 individuals residing in the United States from 1999 through 2006. Nearly half of these deaths occurred during infancy (younger than 1 year of age). The study also showed that mortality due to congenital heart defects declined over time; however, racial and ethnic disparities continued. Non-Hispanic Blacks were more likely to die from congenital heart defects than were non-Hispanic Whites. This CDC study highlighted that congenital heart defects are lifelong conditions that can require special attention throughout a person’s life.

What is CDC doing about congenital heart defects?

We at CDC are working to identify causes and prevention opportunities for birth defects, including congenital heart defects, by applying a public health approach. Such an approach involves the following activities:

Graph: Age-specific Mortality  Resulting from Congenital Heart Defects 1999-2006.Surveillance or disease tracking: Tracking where and when congenital heart defects occur and who they affect gives us important clues about opportunities for prevention.

Research: CDC coordinates the largest population-based effort in the United States to identify the causes of birth defects, the National Birth Defects Prevention Study. Population-based studies like this one look at the occurrence of disease across a wide group of people, which is important to make sure that study results are applicable to people living in the United States. This study has identified some important risk factors for congenital heart defects. For example, women who are obese when they become pregnant are more likely to have a baby with a congenital heart defect.

Prevention: Studying the occurrence of congenital heart defects among the population holds promise for identifying risk factors that can be translated into prevention strategies.

Collaboration: CDC provides technical assistance to the Congenital Heart Public Health Consortium, a unique collaboration that brings together families, experts, and organizations to address congenital heart defects.

Learn more about congenital heart defects.


Gilboa SM, Salemi JL, Nembhard WN, Fixler DE, Correa A. Mortality resulting from congenital heart disease among children and adults in the United States, 1999 to 2006. Circulation. 2010;122:2254−63.

More Information

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  • Page last reviewed: September 22, 2011
  • Page last updated: September 22, 2011
  • Content source:
    • Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs
    • Page maintained by: Office of the Associate Director for Communication, Digital Media Branch, Division of Public Affairs