The Medical Minute: Congenital heart disease grows up

July 05, 2007

By William Davidson

Treatment of adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) represents one of the crowning achievements of modern medicine. In the 1940s, most children born with heart disease died. Today, the 25,000 infants born annually with various heart problems have a 90 percent chance of surviving to adulthood. In the United States, there are now more adults than children with congenital heart disease. This trend toward more adults than children living with the disease will grow in the future.

Many adults with congenital heart disease had surgery as children -- or "blue babies" -- but have ceased to get regular follow-up care with an ACHD heart specialist and are not being seen in an ACHD specialized center. They may not know that they need regular follow-up. Some are living with symptoms of their disease, unaware that they can be made better.

Penn State Hershey Medical Center has a specific Program for Adults with Congenital Heart Disease (PACHD). Established in 1991, the program is the oldest of its kind in Pennsylvania and one of only 60 ACHD programs in the United States. Penn State's PACHD is a growing program with approximately 1,000 visits annually. Three physician specialists and a full-time nurse practitioner conduct between six and eight half-day clinic sessions every week.

For patients of any age, Penn State Heart and Vascular Institute offers a full range of experienced congenital heart disease physicians from both PACHD and the Penn State Children's Heart Group. Appointments for specialized ACHD care can be made by calling the 24-hour CareLine at (800) 243-1455 or (717) 531-8407, or at via e-mail.

Penn State's Heart and Vascular Institute is proud to be able to provide care for this highly specialized group of patients, most of whom are living productive and functional lives. The PACHD is here to help those patients have long and healthy lives as well.

William Davidson is a professor of medicine at Penn State College of Medicine and director of Penn State Hershey Medical Center's Program for Adults with Congenital Heart Disease.

(Media Contacts)

Last Updated March 19, 2009