Due to advances in treatment and technology, more patients than ever before who are born with congenital heart disease (CHD) are living into adulthood. For the first time, there are more adult than pediatric CHD patients, with the number of adult cases in the U.S. estimated at 1.3 million.1 The management of these patients is so complex that a new subspecialty of adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) is now available for certification by the American Board of Medical Specialties. Penn State Hershey Heart and Vascular Institute has long recognized the complex needs of this growing population, and started a program for adult congenital heart disease (PACHD) in 1991, which is directed by William Davidson, Jr., M.D.
Currently, the PACHD has three ACHD providers, all of whom are board certified, having sat for the first-ever ACHD subspecialty boards in October 2015. These specialized clinicians provide 24/7 coverage to all ACHD inpatients, and provide personalized, consistent care to complex patients, most of whom have six to 10 active medical conditions. Problems associated with congenital heart disease include valve disease, heart failure, arrhythmias, aortic and other vascular diseases; pulmonary, renal and liver disease; and a history of multiple surgeries. For example, one of the fastest growing ACHD patient populations have tetralogy of Fallot (ToF).2 This condition requires complex intracardiac “corrective” surgery. A common late consequence is pulmonary valve insufficiency (PI), which can lead to right ventricular dysfunction and sudden death.2 PI is a common lesion in this population that is often missed with conventional testing, according to Dr. Davidson. All ACHD patients require lifelong follow-up and regular visits to an ACHD specialist. Continue reading