Congenital heart disease (CHD), the most common congenital birth defect, has long been known as one of the main causes of infant death during the first year of life.1 More than one million of the world's approximately 135 million newborns are born each year with CHD.21 Over the last century, cardiac surgery has been an effective approach to tackling CHD; its remarkable advance has decreased the mortality rate of newborns with CHD.10
However, that lower mortality rate is mostly observed in developed countries rather than developing ones. Surgical treatment of CHD requires highly skilled surgeons along with complex infrastructures and equipment. While developed countries have perfected their treatment of CHD for more than 50 years, developing countries are still in the early stages. It is estimated that the number of congenital cardiac surgeons needs to increase by 1,250 times to satisfy only the basic needs of CHD treatment worldwide,16 and most of those surgeons reside in developed countries. As a result, the mortality rate in developing countries is currently at 20%, strikingly higher than the 3% to 7% in developed countries,16 not to mention the fact that mortality rates in developing countries are likely underreported due to the lack of proper diagnosis.
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