Why ACHD Patients Should See a Congenital Cardiologist

Would you take your car to a body shop if it needed new brakes? Of course you wouldn’t. Instead you would take your car to a mechanic. Although each profession is trained to work on cars, they each have different training and specializations.

The same can be said for cardiologists. All cardiologists are not the same. While each physician undergoes education and training related to the heart, they specialize in different types of heart problems. It is important that you are treated by a cardiologist trained to care for your type of heart disease.

There are two major types of heart problems:

CongenitalAbnormalities of the heart that are present at birth.

  • Some examples are holes in the heart, malformed valves or pumping chambers
  • Often diagnosed in infancy
  • Typically no specific cause or prevention

Acquired – Abnormalities of the heart which develop over time.

  • Some examples are coronary artery disease, weak heart muscles, and leaky valves
  • Often diagnosed later in life
  • May be caused by smoking, infections or diseases such as diabetes

If you have congenital heart disease (CHD) it is important that your health care team understands your unique heart. Patients with CHD can have hearts that look and function differently than the average heart. Some hearts can be backward, on the opposite side of the chest or with vessels in abnormal places.

While it may look strange to the untrained eye, this can be normal for someone trained to treat CHD. Congenital cardiologists understand all the unique ways in which hearts can be formed and the surgeries used to treat them.

There are two types of congenital cardiologists:

Pediatric congenital cardiologist

  • Treats infants and children with CHD
  • Diagnoses CHD in infants
  • Determines treatment plans
  • Cares for a growing heart
  • Determines if primary intervention (catheterization or surgery) is needed

Adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) cardiologist

  • Treats adolescents and adults with CHD
  • Cares for an aging heart
  • Cares for hearts as bodies change such as during pregnancy or illness
  • Monitors hearts to make sure that childhood surgeries are still working
  • Determines if secondary intervention is needed

If you have a heart condition it is vital that a cardiologist trained to treat your type of problem cares for you. Congenital heart disease patients have very unique hearts and undergo specialized surgeries. A congenital cardiologist understands CHD and what therapies work best.

ACHD cardiologists have dedicated their careers to treating adults with CHD.  You care enough about your car to seek out the right type of specialist, shouldn’t you do the same for your heart?

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Tracey Sisk
Tracey has been employed at Nationwide Children's Hospital since 1994 with extended experience in the cardiothoracic operating room. Working as both an RN circulator and RN First Assist, she has first hand knowledge of congenital heart defects, their vast variations and surgical repairs. She has been involved in research involving modification of the fontan procedure, temperature control elements within the operating room and the hybrid procedure for HLHS. She currently holds the position of nurse clinician on the adult congenital heart disease (ACHD)team. In this role, she coordinates the care of ACHD patients by arranging tests and referrals, providing discharge during clinic visits and discharge planning for hospitalized patients. In addition, she is actively involved in the Transition Program. This educational program prepares the adolescent for transition from pediatric to adult congenital heart provider.

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