Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a problem present at birth that involves the structure of the heart, its valves, or blood vessels. It is the most common type of birth defect, affecting about one in 100 babies. There are many types of congenital heart disease; some are mild, showing no signs or symptoms and often not diagnosed until later in life. Others are more complex and require special medical or surgical treatment shortly after birth. Thanks to medical advances, increasing numbers of children with CHD are surviving into adulthood. In fact, the number of adults with congenital heart disease (ACHD) now exceeds the number of children living with CHD.
Compared to the general population, ACHD patients require 3-4 times more emergency room visits, hospitalizations, and intensive care units stays. They also face a greater risk of early death and disability. Common problems associated with ACHD include difficulty with exercise, heart rhythm problems (arrhythmia), endocarditis (infection of the heart’s inner lining, often in the heart’s valves), heart failure, sudden cardiac arrest, stroke, and premature death. More than 60% of people living with ACHD do not receive the recommended care. This is due to a variety of reasons such as lack of medical insurance, financial hardship, assuming that their condition was corrected in childhood, and not knowing they have the condition.
UAB Medicine has a long history of caring for patients with adult congenital heart disease (ACHD). Our Alabama Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is the only one in Alabama and one of only a handful in the country that provides continuing care for patients as they move into adulthood. It has the full range of expertise to manage and treat ACHD. The program has seen significant growth in recent years, with approximately 1,700 patient visits and more than 50 surgeries performed annually. The program strives to maintain follow-up care for its patients in an effort to identify and treat symptoms earlier and prevent small problems from turning into more serious issues.
The Alabama Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program partners with cardiologists and primary care physicians to care for this growing patient population at convenient clinic locations throughout the Birmingham area and in Huntsville, Montgomery and Mobile. Our team combines the expertise of physicians and staff from several UAB Medicine specialties, including pediatric cardiology, adult cardiology, cardiovascular surgery, cardiovascular anesthesia, and maternal fetal medicine. Our team also includes clinicians with specialized training in surgical interventions, echocardiography, catheterization, electrophysiology, heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, and MRI & CT imaging.
Thanks to advances in pediatric congenital care, the life expectancy for most patients now reaches far into adulthood, but more than 60% stop seeing a cardiologist once they turn 18. UAB’s Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is designed to prevent that gap in care. In addition, our expertise greatly increases the chances that symptoms will be identified early. This helps ensure that smaller problems are addressed before they develop into larger, more life-threatening issues such as heart failure, arrhythmia, residual congenital heart defects, endocarditis, and stroke.
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