Congenital heart defects are among the most frequent anomalies present at birth, representing a heterogeneous group of malformations, both in terms of pathogenesis and clinical significance of the lesion. Failure to grow is well documented in infants with complex congenital heart defects; the presence of associated chromosomal abnormalities, cyanosis, and cardiac failure adds to the complexity and challenge. Malnutrition etiology can be grouped into the following three categories: inadequate intake, inefficient absorption and utilization, and/or increased energy needs. The consequences of malnutrition are both short and long term, timely nutritional intervention being necessary in order to maintain an adequate nutritional state. Because there are several types of congenital heart defects and multiple mechanisms by which they produce failure to thrive, no single strategy will be adequate to treat all cases. Medical complications such as chylotorax, necrotizing enterocolitis, laryngeal and neurological dysfunction play a major role in the requisite nutrition therapy in infants with congenital heart defect; limited access to human milk and parenteral concerns, as well as stress about feeding are also factors that can contribute to poor outcomes concerning nutrition and growth. Protocols are being considered and designed, and a systematic approach is always needed. The quality of life for patient and family, as well as getting the child back on track for age-appropriate development are always at the fore-front of each care plan.
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