What is adult congenital heart disease?
As babies who are born with pediatric congenital heart disease grow up to become adolescents and adults, they have what is known as adult congenital heart disease (ACHD). Congenital heart disease is caused by a malformation during development of the heart while a baby is still in the womb. This is different than acquired heart conditions that occur later in life.
Adults with congenital heart defects may have unique issues that require visits with specially trained cardiologists, such as a history of heart surgery or other medical problems that occur in adulthood.
Why are adult congenital heart disease specialists needed?
Adult congenital heart disease requires a specialized team of doctors. For the best treatment outcomes, these doctors should have training and experience in congenital heart defects and their impact on adults, such as managing heart disease during pregnancy. The Pediatric Congenital Heart Association estimates that the vast majority of adults living with congenital heart disease are not receiving proper cardiology care.
Cardiologists who treat adult congenital heart disease at Children's Hospital Colorado have additional specialty training to care for these unique patients.
When is adult congenital heart disease diagnosed?
With today's diagnostic tests, cardiologists can usually detect and diagnose congenital heart defects in utero (during the mother’s pregnancy), soon after birth or before a child reaches school age. However, in some cases, these conditions go unnoticed until a person becomes an adult.
If you are a newly-diagnosed adult, you may have wondered why you didn't experience symptoms in childhood. In this case, your underlying defect may not be severe. It can take many years for some heart defects to cause symptoms.
Learn more about our Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program.