Adult care for congenital heart disease patients should begin in adolescence

February 28, 2011, American Heart Association

Doctors should transition their patients from pediatric to adult medical care for congenital heart disease during early adolescence, experts recommend in a scientific statement published in Circulation: Journal of the American Heart Association.

"It's not as simple as getting the name of a new doctor and going to see them when a patient turns 18," said Craig Sable, M.D., co-chair of the statement committee and director of and cardiology fellowship training at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, D.C. "There are multiple steps associated with the transition process that need to be started at a very young age, so that by the time these children become adults the process is well under way."

The transition should be a joint effort between the healthcare provider (usually a pediatric heart specialist), the patient and the patient's family that starts when patients are between 12 to 14 years old, Sable said.

Critical steps include:

  • Select an adult care physician to provide and coordinate comprehensive care;
  • Offer reproductive/genetic and career counseling;
  • Secure health insurance;
  • Educate adult care providers in managing congenital ;
  • Maintain communication between patients, families and healthcare professionals.
Congenital heart disease occurs before birth and is the most common type of . These heart disorders are usually relatively mild and treatable.

Most children born with congenital heart disease today survive into adulthood and live normal lives. In the United States, more than half of those affected are now adults.

However, many patients need specialized and uninterrupted medical treatment. Ideally, the transition process minimizes disruption and stress while maintaining appropriate treatment continuity. But less than one-third of adults with receive care from qualified, trained specialists, Sable said.

"The vast majority of the patients we see are not necessarily the most severe, so there's a real concern that some of the patients who really need care are not seeking it," he said. "The bottom line is to ensure that, as patients grow up, they receive the necessary care."

Beginning in 2008, Sable and his team researched transition literature to identify the most effective practices that they presented in the paper.

Related Stories

Recommended for you

Number of older people with four or more diseases will double by 2035, say researchers

January 23, 2018
A study published today in Age and Ageing, the scientific journal of the British Geriatrics Society, reports that the number of older people diagnosed with four or more diseases will double between 2015 and 2035. A third ...

Group suggests pushing age of adolescence to 24

January 22, 2018
A small group of researchers with the Royal Children's Hospital in Australia is suggesting that it might be time to change the span of years that define adolescence—from the current 10 to 19 to a proposed 10 to 24 years ...

Placental accumulation of flame retardant chemical alters serotonin production in rats

January 22, 2018
A North Carolina State University-led research team has shown a connection between exposure to a widely used flame retardant chemical mixture and disruption of normal placental function in rats, leading to altered production ...

Marijuana use does not lower chances of getting pregnant

January 22, 2018
Marijuana use—by either men or women—does not appear to lower a couple's chances of getting pregnant, according to a new study led by Boston University School of Public Health (BUSPH) researchers.

Women run faster after taking newly developed supplement, study finds

January 19, 2018
A new study found that women who took a specially prepared blend of minerals and nutrients for a month saw their 3-mile run times drop by almost a minute.

Americans are getting more sleep

January 19, 2018
Although more than one in three Americans still don't get enough sleep, a new analysis shows first signs of success in the fight for more shut eye. According to data from 181,335 respondents aged 15 and older who participated ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.