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Congenital Heart Disease Patients of all Ages Cared for by Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC

Kristin Deichler was one of three sisters born with a partial atrioventricular septal defect, or congenital heart defect. Today at age 30, she's part of a growing population of adults living with congenital heart disease (CHD) due to advances in heart care.

At age 18 months, Kristin's defect was successfully repaired by a cardiothoracic surgeon at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh of UPMC. Today she continues her care at Children's Hospital through the Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Center, a joint program of Children's and UPMC's Heart and Vascular Institute (HVI).

According to Stephen Cook, MD, FACC, director of the ACHD Center, there are an estimated 800,000 to 1 million adults with CHD thanks in part to advances in medical, surgical and transcatheter therapies.

Recognizing the special needs of this patient population, the American College of Cardiology and the Adult Congenital Heart Association recommend that adults with CHD receive care by specialists in this field like Dr. Cook. In support of these guidelines, pediatric cardiologists at Children's along with their adult counterparts at HVI formed the ACHD Center under Dr. Cook's direction. An expert in the transition of care of patients with congenital heart diseases, Dr. Cook's unique skill set includes both adult and pediatric cardiology, internal medicine, and pediatrics.

"What we've learned over the last several decades is that CHD patients are at risk of late-onset complications," Dr. Cook explains. "Frequently these develop in their third or fourth decades of life. Patients are at risk for arrhythmias, stroke, heart failure, and sudden cardiac death. Our job as adult congenital specialists is to prevent these late-onset complications."

The ACHD Center provides consultation, evaluation, and care for adults, ages 18 and up with CHD, whether their condition is simple or of great complexity. Follow-up is recommended for women of child-bearing age in need of contraception or pregnancy counseling and adolescents, ages 13-17, who may benefit from a consultation to discuss transition of care from pediatrics to adult services.

For more information or to seek a consultation with the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center, please call 412-692-5540 or send an email to ACHD@chp.edu.

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