Do children grow out of heart abnormalities?

Left untreated, children with congenital heart defects will not grow out of these abnormalities and may die. Many heart abnormalities may be repaired via open-heart surgery soon after birth. Children with congenital heart defects may develop more slowly physically and intellectually than other children. They will need to monitor and perhaps treat their heart problems for the rest of their lives to ensure that no complications occur.

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Dr. Pooja H. Desai, MD
Pediatric Cardiologist

Yes. Heart murmurs are commonly present in infants and young children and are called innocent heart murmurs. These are not associated with any underlying cardiac defect, and they usually go away over time.

Certain conditions in which children are born with a hole in the upper chamber of the heart (atrial septal defect), a small hole in lower chamber of the heart (ventricular septal defect) or an extra blood vessel (patent ductus arteriosus) usually close spontaneously and may not need surgery.

Children with complex congenital heart defects will not grow out of their abnormalities. They require open-heart surgery to repair their heart condition. These children will need to consult a pediatric cardiologist for the rest of their lives even after surgical repair.

Heart abnormalities can be scary stuff. In this video, cardiothoracic surgeon Dr. Emile Bacha discusses whether heart defects are always permanent or not.

Dr. Dennis W. Kim, MD
Pediatric Cardiologist

Children with significant heart abnormalities typically will not outgrow their heart conditions. However, some children are born with conditions that may improve or even resolve with time. These include some:

  • atrial septal defects (holes in the wall between the upper heart chambers)
  • ventricular septal defects (holes in the wall between the lower heart chambers), particularly in the thicker muscular part of the wall
  • persistent patent ductus arteriosus (PDA)

Some heart murmurs may be present in infants and young children and are not related to abnormalities of the heart or blood vessels. These are called innocent or functional heart murmurs. These usually go away over time, though some may persist into adulthood. These are the murmurs that some people will say they "outgrew." Other conditions may improve over time, such as narrowing of some valves and blood vessels. It is important to continue to have regularly scheduled follow up with your child's cardiologist if a significant heart issue has been diagnosed.

Some children can grow out of heart abnormalities, but it really depends on each child’s specific case. A fetal heart has extra blood vessels as well as holes that exist between the upper chambers of the heart. These pathways are part of the fetal circulation and normally close after birth.

When a heart abnormality is present, sometimes these extra connections in and around the heart don’t spontaneously close as they should. Some holes in both the atrial and ventricular septum may close on their own, and some valve abnormalities are not severe enough to require any intervention. However, the more major types of congenital heart defects won’t get better on their own.

Dr. Mark S. Sklansky, MD
Pediatric Cardiologist

Many children are born with structural or rhythm abnormalities in the heart that are commonly outgrown. Congenital heart defects such as patent ductus arteriosus (PDA), secundum atrial septal defect (ASD), muscular or membranous ventricular septal defect (VSD) may all close or resolve spontaneously. Likewise, some rhythm abnormalities, such as frequent premature atrial contractions (PACs) or even supraventricular tachycardia (SVT, a form of intermittent but rapid heartbeat) likewise can often be outgrown.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.