Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common from of birth defect. And it's often diagnosed and treated in childhood. Since the 1970s, open-heart surgery has allowed repair or partial correction of many defects, enabling the majority of CHD patients to survive into adulthood.
Many patients and their physicians, however, mistakenly believe that a successful childhood surgery represents a "cure," so regular cardiology care in adulthood has not been the norm.
For CHD patients with more complex defects, care is often provided by pediatric cardiologists—even well into the patents' adult years—because many adults cardiologists haven't been trained in the treatment of these patients.
A UT Southwestern team—members of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program—is an exception, offering a high degree of expertise to meet adult CHD patients' cardiac and general medical needs.
"For most patients, surgery for CHD does not result in a cure, and patients remain at risk for a variety of complications in adulthood, raging from arrhythmias to heart failures and even sudden death," says Beth Brickner, M.D., Co-Director of the Program. "Some of the problems are preventable with regular follow-up and surveillance. When caught early, serious heart issues can be addressed before irreversible damage is done."
Pregnancy for CHD patients can be challenging as well and needs subspecialty care, adds Lisa Forbess, M.D., Co-Director for the Program. "We work closely with UT Southwestern maternal-fetal medicine physicians whenever we have a patient with CHD who's facing a high-risk pregnancy," she says. "That type of collaboration also extends to our pulmonary hypertension and heart failure/transplant teams so that all aspects of the patient's care are covered."
UTSW Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program specialists are available for referrals from your physician.