Walter L. Sobczyk, M.D., pediatric cardiologist with Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, has treated hundreds of children born with life-threatening heart abnormalities. Thanks to advances in surgery and treatment over the last decades, most of these children are now living into adulthood.
“Some of these heart conditions are very serious, and for a long time these children didn’t survive into adulthood. Now they live into their 40s, 50s, 60s and 70s,” Dr. Sobczyk said.
Norton Children’s Heart Institute has expanded its adult congenital heart disease services so specialized cardiologists can continue to care for these patients as they mature.
“This is a new and expanding concept that’s rapidly evolving,” Dr. Sobczyk said. “We are working on being on the cutting edge of that at Norton Children’s Heart Institute.”
Treatment for Congenital Heart Disease in Adults
Adults with congenital heart disease previously had seen pediatric cardiologists who did not specialize in adult heart issues, or adult cardiologists who didn’t have specialized training in congenital heart disease, according to Dr. Sobczyk.
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“The patients spent a lot of time in limbo,” Dr. Sobczyk said. “Many of them did not understand the nature of their conditions and what kind of complications could happen in their 30s and 40s, and wouldn’t come back until they were quite sick.”
Adults born with congenital heart conditions typically face adult heart issues sooner. Adults who underwent heart valve operations as children often need to have those valves replaced.
One goal at Norton Children’s Heart Institute is making sure adolescents with a congenital heart disease understand their condition and the challenges as they get older.
“Babies who survive infant operations can do very well. They can go to school, get married, start families,” Dr. Sobczyk said. “I have patients who were born with one heart chamber now entering college.”
According to Dr. Sobczyk, as these patients transition to adulthood, Norton Children’s Heart Institute can keep caring for them so they can continue to get the best care for their congenital heart disease.