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Georgia's first comprehensive congenital heart center launched

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Jennifer Johnson McEwen
Emory University
A few decades ago, babies born with serious heart defects often died in childhood. Major medical advances are allowing these patients with congenital heart defects (CHD) to live longer than ever before, growing into teenagers and adults who need ongoing, specialized care.

Children's Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory Healthcare are partnering to launch the Congenital Heart Center of Georgia (CHCG). One of the largest programs in the United States and the first in Georgia, the Congenital Heart Center of Georgia is a comprehensive program for children and adults with CHD, providing a continuum of lifesaving care from before birth through adulthood.

"We treat CHD patients up until the brink of adulthood at Children's and know that many of them do not continue life-saving care as they grow older and become adults," says Robert Campbell, MD, chief of cardiac services, Children's Healthcare of Atlanta Sibley Heart Center (SHC).

"Many patients and their families wrongly believe that when a young person doesn't have symptoms after receiving good pediatric care that a 'cure' has been found," says Campbell. "Unfortunately, the treatment of these congenital diseases rarely results in a cure, and current medical guidelines recommend lifelong care and observation for these patients."

Campbell says that while little research has been done to quantify the problem in the U.S., studies have shown that approximately 40 percent of CHD patients in Canada and Europe stop seeing heart specialists between the ages of 13 and 21 years old.

Under the newly formed Congenital Heart Center of Georgia, Campbell and the cardiac team at Children's SHC will work closely with Emory's Adult Congenital Heart Center (ACHC) team to not only help their CHD patients make a seamless transition from pediatric to adult care, but will offer the latest medical research and treatments available throughout the journey.

"This important partnership gives patients in Atlanta and throughout Georgia access to state of the art pediatric and adult congenital cardiac care," says Emory Healthcare cardiologist Wendy Book, MD, professor of medicine, Emory University School of Medicine and director of Emory's ACHC. "We will be able to work together to consult and closely track our patients' progress because everything is done in-house, regardless of age or pediatric versus adult status."

According to Campbell and Book, another reason for the decline in the number of CHD patients who continue treatment is that young adults often believe they are "invincible," and unless they have symptoms, they do not see the need for ongoing treatment into adulthood.

"We are hoping to correct some of the misconceptions about CHD through the Congenital Heart Center of Georgia and offer a step in the right direction to help our patients receive continued, critical care and live longer more productive, healthier lives," says Book.

Book and Campbell will lead the CHCG, along with Brian Kogon, MD, chief of cardiothoracic surgery at Children's Sibley Heart Center and associate professor of surgery, Emory University School of Medicine.

For more information on the Congenital Heart Center of Georgia, please visit:

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