Children with Heart Conditions Have Special Healthcare Needs

Doctor listening to a child's heart during doctor visit

Children with heart conditions, such as congenital heart defects (CHDs), often need specialized medical care and other treatments. However, little is known about the number of U.S. children living with heart conditions or their special healthcare needs. A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) found that 1 in 77 U.S. children reportedly had a current heart condition in 2016.

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Main Findings

  • Based on parent-reported information, 1 in 77 U.S. children had a heart condition in 2016. This adds up to nearly 900,000 children living with different types of heart conditions.
  • Compared to children without a heart condition, children with a heart condition were more likely to have special healthcare needs, including medication needs, physical or speech therapy, and treatment for developmental or behavioral problems.
    • Nearly 60% of children with a current heart condition have special healthcare needs, compared to 20% of children without a heart condition.
  • These findings highlight the importance of developmental screening, so that children with heart conditions, such as CHDs, can get the services and support they need.
    • Developmental screening by a healthcare provider is recommended for all children at 9, 18, and 24 or 30 months, or whenever there is a concern. Acting early can make a difference.

About this Study

About Congenital Heart Defects

CHDs are conditions that are present at birth and can affect the structure of a baby’s heart and the way it works. They are the most common type of birth defect, affecting nearly 1 in 110 babies born each year in the United States.

Our Work

CDC’s National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities (NCBDDD) saves babies through birth defects prevention and research by identifying the causes of birth defects, finding opportunities to prevent them, and improving the health of those living with birth defects. To learn more about how NCBDDD makes a difference, visit

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Key Findings Reference

Chen M, Riehle-Colarusso T, Yeung LF, Smith C, Farr SL. Children with Heart Conditions and Their Special Health Care Needs — United States, 2016. MMWR Morb Mortal Wkly Rep 2018; 67: 1045-1049.