This study was undertaken to identify all congenital heart disease in infancy, including deaths before diagnosis, to provide a truer picture of the spectrum of congenital heart disease and to assess the 'treatability' of those dying before diagnosis. All births, infant deaths, and surviving babies with congenital heart disease in one health region in 1985-90 were identified and were classified as 'complex', 'significant', or 'minor'. Of the 1074 infants diagnosed in infancy, 185 died and 56 of these (30%) died undiagnosed. Severe non-cardiac malformations were present in 29 of the 56 while 27 were otherwise normal. Cardiovascular abnormalities in the latter group were complex in 13/27 and significant in 14/27. Identification of undiagnosed cardiovascular anomalies will improve epidemiological evaluation of congenital heart disease and, more importantly, earlier recognition of treatable abnormalities may reduce mortality.
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