Dr. Eric Mendeloff, M.D., Congenital Heart Surgery Center

Best Pediatric Specialists: Cardiac Surgery 2010,2011

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How common is congenital heart disease in newborn babies?

Many people would be surprised to find out that about 1 out of every 150 newborn babies are born with some form of congenital heart disease. This is not to say that all of those babies require surgical therapy; most do not.  Probably only about 1 in 8 or 1 in 10 of those will require surgery in the first year of life, but nonetheless, there are a variety of abnormalities that can happen with the heart and it is more common that many people think.

What is prenatal diagnosis?

When you refer to prenatal diagnosis, you are referring to diagnosis of the heart lesion in the fetus. There are new technologies that have allowed us to become more accurate and get better ideas of what might be going on in the heart of the fetus. The heart develops between 8 and 14 weeks of gestation, before many ultrasounds can pick up heart issues. However, there are now specialists that do Fetal Echocardiography which have allowed us to become more accurate and to give better counseling to the families of these babies.  Fetal Echocardiography can accurately diagnose congenital heart lesions in fetuses as early as 14 to 15 weeks of gestation. While those capabilities aren't there in all institutions, they are available in larger institutions like Medical City Children's Hospital and allow us to make an earlier diagnosis and provide the family with better counseling. 

“There are new technologies that have allowed us to become more accurate and get better ideas of what might be going on in the heart of the fetus.”

Does Medical City Children's Hospital specialize in care of babies with congenital heart disease?

Yes. The mother is seen by an obstetrician or maternal fetal medicine physician and they do an ultrasound. If they suspect fetal heart issues, they refer the patient to one of our Fetal Echocardiography Specialists here at Medical City. The specialist does a Fetal Echocardiogram and the cardiologist will explain the results to the family. Soon after, the family will talk to me so that I can give them a surgical perspective on what is going on with the fetus and what to expect shortly after birth. We guide them through the pregnancy and hopefully have the delivery done at our hospital so that therapy can be instituted right away. The newborn is stabilized immediately and is put in our high-risk Neonatal Intensive Care Unit where there is a cadre of physicians and nurses that are specialized in this area. I will perform surgery on the baby, usually within the first week of life, before going home from the hospital. We have everything under one roof from when the fetus is first diagnosed to the high-risk delivery, preoperative care to their surgical care and postoperative care, and of course their long-term follow-up care is always all done here at the hospital.

Is Congenital Heart Disease genetic? 

I would say that the vast majority of heart lesions that babies are born with are not genetic, and in the event that a family does have a child born with congenital heart lesion, it is very unlikely for it to happen again in another pregnancy.  Nevertheless, there are genetic counselors at our hospital that can help coach a family through a potential heart issue and get them whatever information they need.

Dr. Eric Mendeloff launched the Medical City Children’s Hospital Congenital Heart Surgery Program in late 2003. The program is the only institution in North Texas where fetal diagnosis of congenital heart defects, high-risk deliveries, neonatal critical care, surgical repair, and post-surgical critical care is provided under one roof by a dedicated team of specialists. He has been named one of D Magazine's Best Doctors multiple years in a row. For more information on Congenital Heart Surgery Center,