Babies surviving with heart defects mean more adults need specialized care

Thanks to advances in medical care, more than 90 percent of babies born with congenital heart defects survive to adulthood.

That makes for a new and growing number of patients: Adults with some type of heart defect that has been repaired but still needs follow-up care. A University of Louisville Physicians and Norton Children’s Hospital program cares for these patients through a statewide network. It’s the only adult congenital heart disease program in Kentucky.

Cardiologists Craig H. Alexander, M.D., and Walter L. Sobczyk, M.D., lead the adult congenital heart disease program at Norton Children’s Hospital. Along with a team of dedicated specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Center, they work with each patient’s general cardiologist. They provide advanced diagnostic testing and cardiac imaging, interventional catheterizations, device implantation, complex arrhythmia therapies, complex surgical procedures and ongoing care.

Norton Children’s Heart Center

The cardiology team at Norton Children’s Hospital specialize in caring for congenital heart defects from birth into adulthood.

“Congenital heart disease is a lifelong problem — even if a defect is successfully repaired during childhood,” Dr. Alexander said. He is the first physician in Kentucky and among the first in the nation to be fellowship trained in adult congenital heart disease.

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Although most adults born with heart defects are generally healthy, they often face long-term medical issues that require ongoing monitoring and care. These patients are at high risk for sudden cardiac arrest, stroke and premature death. They also have more emergency room visits and hospitalizations than others. In addition, most are at high risk for complications during pregnancy.

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Pictured above: Hannah Reed was treated for a heart defect when she was 5. Twenty-one years later, when she became pregnant, she found her way to Craig H. Alexander, M.D., who helped her manage her heart condition.

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