Full Spectrum of Specialized Care for Patients with Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart specialists at University Hospitals Harrington Heart & Vascular Institute provide a full spectrum of specialized care for adults with congenital heart disease. Through a comprehensive approach to care at our dedicated Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ADHD) Center, we bring together an entire team of experts to better manage your heart health.
Our team includes a pediatric cardiologist board-certified in adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) – one of only 200 in the nation. In addition, we have highly trained pediatric and adult cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, pediatric cardiac nurse practitioners, cardiac nurses and social workers to help with any aspect of adult congenital heart disease care. Our multidisciplinary team helps adults with this condition reduce their risk of hypertension, heart rhythm problems, heart failure and stroke – all while improving their quality of life. Patients are also educated about the importance of good dental hygiene and regular dental exams to reduce their risk of endocarditis – a serious infection of the inner lining of the heart.
Understanding Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital heart disease is an abnormal development of the heart that occurs in the womb, also called in utero, and is the most the most common birth defect in the United States. Due to advancements in medicine and interventional therapies, more babies with congenital heart defects are now living into adulthood. In fact, studies show there are more living adults with congenital heart disease than children.
Although genetic factors may play a role in some cases of congenital heart disease, there is no known cause for the majority of congenital heart defects.
Types of Congenital Heart Defects
There are three main categories of congenital heart defects. These include:
- Defects that cause too much blood to pass through the lungs: These defects increase pressure and stress in the lungs by allowing oxygen-rich blood that should be traveling to the body to re-circulate through the lungs.
- Defects that cause not enough blood to pass through the lungs: These defects prevent the body from receiving enough oxygen and lead to a cyanotic baby or one with blue coloring. They allow blood that has not been to the lungs to collect oxygen and travel to the body.
- Defects that cause not enough blood to travel to the body: These defects prevent the right amount of blood from traveling to the body and lead to underdeveloped chambers of the heart or blood vessel blockages.
In some cases, a baby may face a combination of several heart defects, creating the need for more complex care.
Advanced Diagnostic Tools to Evaluate Heart Anatomy
The age at which you are diagnosed with congenital heart disease depends on your defect. If you were a cyanotic or blue baby, you were likely diagnosed at a young age through prenatal imaging technologies such as advanced ultrasound.
If your congenital heart disease is considered mild, you may not know you have it until you are an adult and are being tested for another medical issue. Since every patient with congenital heart disease is different, we use the most advanced diagnostic tools to evaluate the anatomy and function of the heart. These tools include:
- Cardiac MRI or CAT scans: These scans visualize the heart valves and arteries.
- Echocardiograms: Also known as Echos, this imaging technology uses sound waves to show the structure of the heart and determine its pumping capacity.
- Electrocardiogram (ECGs): ECGs record the activity of the heart.
- Exercise stress tests: Exercise stress tests measure the function of the heart during physical exertion.
Congenital heart disease treatment depends on the type of heart defect you have and any complications it may be causing. We treat the full range of congenital heart conditions, including:
- Aortic stenosis
- Aortopulmonary window
- Atrial septal defect
- Atrioventricular canal defects
- Congenital heart defect
- Heart murmurs
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy
- Patent ductus arteriosus
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Transposition of the great arteries (great vessels)
- Truncus arteriosus
- Ventricle septal defects
We will work with you to develop a treatment plan that is tailored to your particular heart condition, stage of life, health issues and treatment goals. Our adult congenital heart disease team will be there for you every step of the way to support, guide and educate you on how to cope with the long-term physical and emotional effects of living with congenital heart disease.
If you are an adult woman with congenital heart disease and would like to have children, we will provide you with specialized medical attention to ensure a safe pregnancy and delivery. With our services, you can achieve your dream of becoming the mother to a healthy infant.