If You’re an Adult with Congenital Heart Disease, Specialized Follow-Up Care Can Keep You Healthy

Duke Program Identifies and Stops Problems Before They Start

By Morgan deBlecourt
February 21, 2023
A doctor points to a diagram with a heart

More adults are living with congenital heart disease than ever before thanks to surgical and treatment advances in children. However, because most treatments correct rather than cure heart defects, people with adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) have a higher risk of heart and other problems later in life.1 If you are among the millions of people living with ACHD, seeking routine follow-up care at a specialized heart center like Duke that is accredited by the Adult Congenital Heart Association can help you live a longer, healthier life. That’s important, even if you aren’t experiencing problems now.

Gap in Congenital Heart Disease Care Puts You at Risk

If you have ACHD, you have an increased risk of arrhythmias, endocarditis, heart failure, pulmonary hypertension, pregnancy complications, and organ failure, says Duke Health congenital cardiothoracic surgeon, Ziv Beckerman, MD, who has dedicated his career to caring for adults and children with congenital heart disease. You are also more likely to need emergency care, intensive care, and hospitalization throughout your lifetime compared to the general population.2 

To make matters worse, when the time comes, many teens and young adults don’t transition to an adult congenital heart disease specialist -- some because they don’t know they should, and others because they feel good and don’t think they need to. “When people don’t maintain regular follow-up care, they put themselves at risk. If they wait to seek care when their heart and other organs starts to fail, it could be too late.”

Duke’s Congenital Heart Disease Programs Support You for Life

While most congenital heart disease programs in the U.S. focus on children, Duke’s program bridges the gap to adulthood by offering robust care for people of all ages living with congenital heart disease. As an Adult Congenital Heart Association-accredited center, Duke is one of 48 programs in the U.S. (and one of only two in North Carolina) that meet the required standards of training, services, and personnel. By maintaining regular follow-up appointments at an ACHD center like Duke’s, you can correct problems early on or prevent them altogether. 

“Duke is unique because we have experts in every type of care you might need,” said Dr. Beckerman. Whether you need guidance with disease prevention (how to eat healthier, exercise, or quit smoking), or if you need more advanced medical or surgical care, “there’s not a treatment or surgery that we don’t provide. On top of that, we are leading the field in the development of new approaches and techniques to help solve the problems congenital heart disease patients face.”

Live the Life You Want to Live

Don’t put yourself at unnecessary risk, says Dr. Beckerman. “When we follow-up on your health carefully, in an organized fashion, we can help you live the life that you want to live.” With clinic locations throughout the Triangle and Triad as well as virtual visit options, it’s easy to access high-quality ACHD care near you.