When Congenital Heart Disease Patients Outgrow Us

wach featured article

Of the approximately 1 percent of U.S. babies born with congenital heart defects, the vast majority live to adulthood. Yet fewer than 10 percent of them receive appropriate management when they mature (Adult Congenital Heart Association).

“For the first time in history, more adults than children are living with congenital heart disease, but we don’t have enough specialty trained physicians to care for them,” says Anitha John, MD, PhD, Director, Washington Adult Congenital Heart Program (WACH) at Children’s National and MedStar Washington Hospital Center. 

Karen Kuehl, MD, MPH, a cardiologist at Children’s National, established WACH in 2001 in partnership with MedStar Washington Hospital Center to leverage the strengths of both institutions and provide the full spectrum of care to patients throughout their lives.

Patients enter the WACH program by transitioning from the care of pediatric cardiologists at Children’s National as teenagers or by referral from community physicians. WACH patients are seen at either Children’s National or MedStar Washington Hospital Center, and adult patients with complex cardiac histories may choose to continue their care at Children’s National for the benefit of continuity.

“The program provides patients with expert interventional, psychosocial, and community support that’s often not available from a single provider,” says Charles Berul, MD, Co-director, Children’s National Heart Institute and Chief of Cardiology at Children’s National.