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Adult Congenital Heart Disease: New Clinic Offers Comprehensive, Cutting-edge Care

Mar 01, 2015 05:26PM ● By MED Magazine

Sixty years ago, about 90 percent of babies born with serious congenital heart disease died in childhood. Now, 90 percent live to age 18 and beyond. In fact, there are now more adults than children living with congenital heart disease, the leading birth defect in the United States. 

“The growing adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) population reflects our tremendous success – in Omaha and nationally – in the medical and surgical care of congenital heart disease patients,” says Jon Cramer, MD, a pediatric and adult congenital cardiologist, Children’s Specialty Physicians and assistant professor of Pediatrics-Internal Medicine at UNMC College of Medicine. “Simply surviving these complex lesions is no longer the goal, it’s the expectation.”

To meet the medical and surgical needs of this challenging and rapidly growing population, Children’s Hospital & Medical Center, in partnership with the University of Nebraska Medical Center, created the region’s only focused clinical service devoted to adults with congenital heart disease.

“As these patients have aged up, they require care by a cardiologist who is experienced in congenital heart disease, which is very different than adult onset heart disease. We offer those services at Children’s and identical services at the University hospital,” says Anji Yetman, MD, Children’s Specialty Physicians, director of Vascular Medicine at Children’s, and professor of Pediatrics & Internal Medicine, UNMC College of Medicine.

Directed by Shane Tsai, MD, the ACHD multidisciplinary program offers advanced, non-invasive monitoring and imaging techniques, interventional catheterization, cardiac surgery - including heart transplantation, ACHD in pregnancy services, including maternal and fetal care, as well as transition support to adult health care for adolescents and young adults. Dr. Tsai is assistant professor of Internal Medicine & Pediatrics, Division of Cardiology at UNMC College of Medicine.

“We have different interventions and surgeries we can perform, and we work together as a group to decide what is best for each patient,” says Dr. Tsai.

Now, this unique regional service is preparing to add even more distinction – through accreditation.

Starting this year, the American Board of Pediatrics and the American Board of Internal Medicine jointly will begin offering formal board certification for providers whose primary mission is caring for ACHD patients. Over the next five years, the certification focus will expand beyond the physicians. A governing body will begin certifying both ACHD clinics and regional programs of expertise.

“Our goal is to be the highest certified ACHD center in the region,” says Dr. Tsai. “Not only do you have to have the ACHD physicians and surgeons, but you have to demonstrate a certain quality of care for the ACHD patients – and that’s what we’re doing here in Omaha.”

The collaboration between the two institutions draws its success from the delivery of superior – and, one day, accredited – care.

“Building something this complex isn’t always going to be smooth,” Dr. Cramer says, “but regardless of the challenges, everyone has the same core goals in mind – providing the patient with the best care in the right setting.”