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Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program: Subspecialty Care for Those in Need

Traditionally, physicians have considered congenital heart disease, the most common form of birth defect, to be a problem for pediatricians. However, due to the resound­ing success of surgical and interventional treatments for congenital heart defects, more than 85 percent of patients survive to adulthood. There are now more adult than pediatric patients with congenital heart disease. Despite cardiac surgery, a true “cure” is rare and many of these patients require ongoing specialized cardiac care throughout their lives.

Coordinated Care

More than 85 percent of patients with congenital heart defects survive to adulthood."

UT Southwestern’s Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program provides comprehensive diagnostic, treatment, and consultative ser­vices for patients with all types of congenital heart disease, ranging from simple to complex defects. Patient care is provided by adult congenital heart disease cardiologists who coordinate all of the patients’ cardiovascular care. Subspecialty care for patients includes expertise in cardiac imaging (including echo­cardiography, cardiac MRI, and cardiac CT), interventional cardiology, electrophysiology for arrhythmia management, device implantation, complex ablation procedures, and con­genital cardiovascular surgery.

Care is coordinated with the assistance of pediatric interventional cardiologists, electrophysiologists, and cardiac surgeons who work with the adult cardiology teams. This complex group of patients often requires other medical services, and care is coordinated with other pro­viders in the heart and lung transplant program, the pulmonary hyperten­sion clinic, and the high-risk maternal-fetal medicine clinic.

M. Elizabeth Brickner, M.D., Professor of Internal Medicine, is Director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic, as well as Director of the Audre and Bernard Rapoport Center for Cardiovascular Research.

“Because of UT Southwestern’s vast medical resources, combining our strong clinic services in adult cardiovascular medicine and cardiac surgery with the expertise of our colleagues at Children’s Medi­cal Center, our team is able to employ the appropriate team of specialists to the best care pos­sible for the patient’s unique condition,” Dr. Brickner says. In the process, UT Southwestern is contributing to the growing body of knowledge about the long-term outcomes of this growing population of patients.

Regional Referrals

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Clinic is a regional referral center that provides care for patients throughout Texas, Oklahoma, and Louisiana. The clinic welcomes referrals from adult and pediatric cardiologists as well as primary care providers seeking optimal care for this special group of patients with their unique issues and challenges. Working with Children’s Medical Center, UT Southwestern is devel­oping a seamless transition from Children’s clinics to the adult clinic to provide optimal continuity of care.