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Heart & Vascular Center

Congenital Heart Disease in Adults

Understanding Congenital Heart Defects in Adults

Approximately one percent of newborns in the US have some form of congenital heart disease (CHD), meaning they were born with some type of structural defect in the heart. In the past, many of these children did not live into adulthood. But with continuing advances in medicine and surgery, many of these children now reach adulthood, yet still face a number of medical issues.

About 2,000 adult patients with congenital heart disease have come to the Center for Adults with Congenital Heart Disease at Barnes-Jewish & Washington University Heart & Vascular Center for assessment and care. The center’s patients have a wide variety of cardiac problems ranging from minor conditions to complex or potentially life-threatening structural abnormalities. They typically fall into one of three categories:

  • congenital heart patients who had one or more cardiac operations as a child and/or adolescent
  • congenital heart patients who, for various reasons, did not receive prior surgical treatment
  • adults with a new diagnosis of a defect (some congenital heart defects are not recognized until the patient is well into adulthood)

Treating Adults with Congenital Heart Disease

Recognizing the unique needs of adults with congenital heart disease, the Center for Adults with Congenital Heart Disease at the Heart & Vascular Center provides comprehensive, expert and individualized clinical care. Our program is one of the largest in the country, with specialized cardiologists, recognized authorities and respected colleagues working together to meet the specific needs of each patient. Some of the services provided include:

  • ongoing long-term cardiovascular and internal medicine care, often including specialized support from experts in psychiatry, psychology, social work and other related specialties
  • ongoing consultation and collaboration with pediatric cardiologists who may have cared for these patients as children
  • comprehensive care during pregnancy and delivery, in collaboration with high-risk obstetrics
  • when appropriate, referral to selected colleagues in other cardiovascular subspecialties
  • supportive medical and nursing care by experienced, caring physicians and nurses
  • diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization
  • all forms of imaging and diagnostics, including MRI, interventional CT, tomography, vascular ultrasonography and angiography with radiologists on staff well versed in congenital heart disease
  • percutaneous closure of patent foramen ovale (PFO), atrial septal defects (ASD), ventricular septal defects (VSD) and more 
  • trans-thoracic, trans-esophogeal and stress echocardiography and other forms of noninvasive cardiological diagnostic assessment
  • noninvasive and invasive electrophysiologic evaluation and intervention, including world-recognized expertise and resources using ablation and other techniques for control of arrhythmia
  • access to cardiovascular anesthesiology to assist our complex patients undergoing high risk procedures
  • surgical consultation and treatment by specially trained adult and pediatric cardiovascular surgeons
  • 24-hour availability for telephone consultations
The Center for Adults with Congenital Heart Disease also offers patients the opportunity to participate in selected clinical trials and research studies. This may give patients new investigational therapeutic options that are not ordinarily available. Other research opportunities are designed to develop new knowledge that can be applied to other patients with congenital heart disease in the future.

To make an appointment at the Center for Adults with Congenital Heart Disease at Barnes-Jewish & Washington University Heart & Vascular Center, call .

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