Congenital heart defects
Each year, around 6,000 children in Germany are born with a heart defect. Congenital heart defects – i.e. malformations of the heart or the great vessels – come in many different forms, ranging from simple defects which hardly affect the cardiovascular system at all, to very serious heart diseases that can be fatal if left untreated. Thanks to progress in paediatric cardiology, heart surgery and anaesthetics, over 90 percent of patients today reach adulthood. However, in most cases, the patients remain chronically ill for the rest of their lives. Surgical operations are often followed by secondary diseases, which limit the patient's quality of life and ability to work and perform, and can even be life-threatening. The number of affected children, adolescents and adults – currently totalling about 300,000 in Germany – is steadily increasing, since there is no cure as such for this particular condition.