Observing Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week from February 7-14

Updated: Apr 7, 2021

To generate widespread awareness and education about the significant effects of congenital heart disease (CHD) – the second week of February is observed as “Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week” in the United States. Sponsored by the American Heart Association, the campaign aims to honor those born with a heart defect and all of the families and friends touched by children with heart defects. The 2021 campaign observed from February 7-14 is a time to recognize those who care for children and adults born with heart defects, as well as researchers and other heart experts. Treatment modalities for this condition may depend on the type and severity of the defect. Complex heart conditions present at birth require lifelong monitoring and specialized care and treatment by a heart specialist. Cardiologists or other specialists besides providing adequate treatment must also ensure that the billing and coding for the condition is done appropriately on the medical claims. Outsourcing medical billing and coding to a reputable and professional provider can help efficiently meet their documentation and claim submission tasks.

Regarded as one of the most common birth defects and common cause of infant death from birth defects, congenital heart defects (CHDs) are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth. The condition occurs when the heart or blood vessels near the heart, don’t develop normally before birth. It can significantly affect how blood flows through the heart and out to the rest of the body. CHDs can vary from mild (such as a small hole in the heart) to severe (such as missing or poorly formed parts of the heart). As per reports from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, congenital heart defects affect approximately 1 in 100 births every year in the United States. It is estimated that about 1.4 million US adults are living with a CHD.

The 2021 weekly observance is a unique public platform to spread awareness about the severe and long-term effects of the different types of heart defects. Even though there are different types of congenital heart defects, the exact causes of these defects are not fully known. However, a combination of multiple genetic and environmental factors seems to play a prominent role. Signs and symptoms of CHDs depend on the type and severity of the specific heart defect, with some defects having few or no specific symptoms. Common symptoms include – fast or troubled breathing, tiredness when feeding, cyanosis (a bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails), fatigue, poor blood circulation and swelling in the legs, abdomen or areas around the eyes.

Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week aims to recognize the significant contributions made by health researchers and other heart experts who care for those with these defects. It also aims to educate people about the various screening methods and treatment options offered for treating heart defects present at birth. Most cases of CHD are normally diagnosed before or at birth whereas some other defects are not diagnosed until weeks, months, or even years after the child’s birth. Minor types of birth defects can be easily diagnosed as part of a routine medical examination. Cardiologists, as part of the diagnosis, may perform certain imaging tests like – electrocardiogram (EKG or ECG), chest X-ray or an echocardiogram (ultrasound movie of the heart) to analyze the heart function. Certain other types of CHDs may be diagnosed using a special type of ultrasound called a fetal echocardiogram (during pregnancy), which creates ultrasound pictures of the heart of the developing baby. If the basic diagnosis tests don’t provide a perfect diagnosis of the type of defect, several other tests like – cardiac catheterization and angiography, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and CT scanning, or Holter recording may be necessary. Treatment modalities for the condition may depend on the type and severity of the defect and generally include medications, catheter procedures, surgery, and heart transplants. In some cases, affected infants and children may need one or more surgeries to repair the heart or blood vessels.

Newborn screening for critical congenital heart defects (Critical CHDs) can identify newborns with these conditions (before signs or symptoms are evident and before the newborns are discharged from the hospital) and thereby help in timely care and treatment. Screening for critical congenital heart disease (CHD) for newborns should be done using pulse-oximetry after 24 hours of age or shortly before discharge (if the baby is less than 24 hours of age). Pediatric cardiologists offering treatment for CHD must correctly report the causes, symptoms, diagnosis and other treatment modalities administered using the correct medical codes. Billing and coding services provided by reputable medical billing companies can assist physicians in using the correct codes for their medical billing process, which in turn helps in timely claim submissions for accurate reimbursement.

ICD-10 codes to diagnose different types of CHD include –

  • Q20 Congenital malformations of cardiac chambers and connections

  • Q21 Congenital malformations of cardiac septa

  • Q22 Congenital malformations of pulmonary and tricuspid valves

  • Q23 Congenital malformations of aortic and mitral valves

  • Q24 Other congenital malformations of heart

  • Q25 Congenital malformations of great arteries

  • Q26 Congenital malformations of great veins

  • Q27 Other congenital malformations of peripheral vascular system

  • Q28 Other congenital malformations of circulatory system

As part of the 2021 CHD weekly observance, a wide range of programs are conducted throughout the US to increase awareness about the different types of heart birth defects affecting children. People can actively participate in the campaign by sharing recent statistics and facts about CHD via social media platforms. They can share their personal stories in local newspapers and participate in research by filling out surveys and working with local organizations. They can also print out flyers with facts provided by the American Heart Association and post them on their local community bulletin boards. In addition, fundraiser events can also be arranged to raise money for awareness.


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