Congenital heart conditions

Mark and Gretel

In the 1950s around eight out of ten babies with a complex congenital heart condition died before their first birthday. Today, thanks to advances in treatment and care, eight out of ten babies with congenital heart disease grow up to be adults.

Congenital heart disease is a heart condition or defect in the heart that develops in the womb, before a baby is born. 

Each day 12 babies are diagnosed with a congenital heart defect in the UK.

Pioneering scientists

Now retired, BHF Professor Robert Anderson and his team at the Institute of Child Health mapped out the details of congenital heart defects. This knowledge,An image of the inside of a busy laboratory. combined with advances in imaging technology, means cardiologists can give babies with heart defects the best chance of life by identifying and treating abnormalities as early as possible.

Former BHF Professor and famous surgeon Sir Magdi Yacoub developed surgical techniques to treat complex congenital defects. The ‘switch’ procedure is now used to correct a heart defect in babies born with wrongly connected heart vessels.

As they grow up, children born with heart conditions now have access to specialist support throughout their lives thanks to BHF Professor John Deanfield and Dr Jane Somerville, who established the new cardiology speciality of Grown-Up Congenital Heart disease (GUCH).

We also established a network of specialist BHF nurses to provide vital care and support to patients and their families across the country.

Ongoing research

We continue to support research to improve the understanding, diagnosis and treatment of congenital heart disease.

Teams across the country – including those led by BHF Professor Bernard Keavney – are investigating the genetics behind why some babies are born with heart defects. Professor Keavney wants to ensure that all children get the best start in life.

Dr Anna Wilsdon, a specialist registrar in clinical genetics in Nottingham, is also working to identify the specific genes that underlie congenital heart disease. The results may lead to new ways to diagnose or treat different congenital heart conditions in the future.

Support heart research

This research was only possible thanks to the generous donations from the public, but there is still lots of work to do. Help us fund more cutting-edge research.