As heart care has advanced, children who are born with congenital heart defects (CHD) are more likely to live to adulthood, enjoying full, productive lives. In fact, more than 90 percent of children who undergo surgery to correct CHD live to adulthood. This high level of success means that now, in the United States, there are actually more adults than children with CHD.
Adult Congenital Heart Disease
Currently, there are more than 1.3 million adults in the US with CHD, and this number is expected to grow every year. Adults with congenital heart disease require specialized, continuing care from experts dedicated to CHD in adults. Unfortunately, over half of these adults do not receive the care they need.
Children’s National Health System and MedStar Washington Hospital Center have partnered to establish the Washington Adult Congenital Heart Program (WACH). By combining our resources and technology, we can provide the most thorough evaluations and treatment for complex congenital heart patients.
WACH: Providing Continuity of Care for Adults with CHD
WACH provides care for adults with CHD, including those who previously had surgery as children and those who are newly diagnosed. WACH is the oldest CHD program in the region and the only one dedicated exclusively to adults with CHD. We provide continuity of care, helping children transition seamlessly from pediatric to adult care. Features of our program include:
- Seamless care: In many cases, we follow our patients from childhood—often from birth—through adulthood. We develop long-term, close relationships with our CHD patients, and we know your heart history thoroughly. In addition, we care for patients who have been diagnosed later in life or relocating to the area and seeking to establish care with an ACHD provider.
- Specialized services: Heart specialists for adults have expertise in caring for patients who developed heart disease as an adult. An adult with CHD has unique needs that differ from other adult heart patients. Our dedicated program provides integrated, specialized care tailored to adults with CHD.
- Full support team: Our program includes dedicated adult congenital heart cardiologists and surgeons, electrophysiologists, cardiac catheterization specialists, maternal fetal medicine specialists, and researchers. No matter what type of monitoring or procedure you need, our experts can provide it. We also work with various other subspecialties, including gastroenterologists, nephrologists, pulmonologists, and mental health professionals to address any care needs as adult congenital heart patients grow older.
The Unique Needs of Adults with Congenital Heart Disease
Many of the adults living with CHD had surgeries as newborns. Those surgeries were often the first of their kind, and surgeons had no history of what the long-term effects might be.
As the field of research has grown, doctors have found that adult survivors of CHD surgery face a higher risk of cardiac disease 20 years after the initial surgery. Cardiac conditions common among this patient population include:
- Enlargement of the heart
- Heart failure
Sometimes, an adult CHD patient requires nothing more than close monitoring and regular scans. Other times we may need to perform a procedure or surgery. Together, we work with you to develop an ongoing treatment plan that suits your individual needs.
Pregnancy and CHD
We have also seen a rise in the number of women with CHD who enter their childbearing years. Women with CHD are more likely to experience heart complications during pregnancy.
Pregnancy with CHD is extremely challenging and requires a creative, multidisciplinary, and expert approach. Through our collaboration with MedStar Washington Hospital Center, we work with maternal fetal medicine specialists to guide these mothers-to-be safely through pregnancy and delivery.
Leaders in CHD Education
The Washington Adult Congenital Heart Program has led the way in regional education in the care of adult congenital heart patients. Since 2011, the WACH team has hosted a yearly educational symposium for healthcare providers. The WACH Program is active in multicenter research. We also host a quarterly meeting of ACHD providers in the Mid-Atlantic region to further education and patient care.
To make an appointment with our experienced adult congenital heart team, please call 202-476-2728.