Not too long ago, most babies born with serious heart defects died in childhood. Thanks to advances in cardiac care, some estimates indicate that today as many as 90% of children with congenital heart disease (CHD) are able to live well into adulthood. In fact, there are now more adults than children living with CHD, and it has become increasingly clear that this growing population requires ongoing, specialized care. For instance, even if their defects are treated surgically in childhood, many patients will require additional surgery as adults to keep their hearts functioning correctly.
When many surgical procedures were first performed to correct congenital heart defects in children, the medical community generally assumed they were curative. But as the first generation of post-operative patients survived into adulthood, some began to develop late complications associated with the procedures they underwent as children.
Unfortunately, many of these late complications develop gradually and are associated with non-specific symptoms. In addition, CHD is so closely associated with infancy and childhood, that many patients assume they no longer need to worry about their condition once they have reached adulthood. Consequently, they may not make the connection between the symptoms they develop as adults and their CHD—especially if it was successfully corrected in childhood.
This relatively recent phenomenon bolsters the argument that patients with CHD—even if their defect was surgically corrected in childhood—need to continue regular follow-up with a congenital heart specialist into adulthood so that he or she can monitor for subtle changes that may indicate a serious problem.
Another issue with managing CHD in adulthood is that adult cardiologists may have difficulty treating conditions in hearts repaired—often effectively re-configured—by pediatric surgeons years earlier. Conversely, pediatric surgeons may be unfamiliar with the unique complications that can arise years later as “corrected” anatomy ages, and in general may not have the specific training and experience required to address congenital disease in adults.
In response to this growing crisis, Emory and Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta have teamed up to help ensure that patients with CHD don’t get lost to follow-up as they transition into adulthood. The Congenital Heart Center of Georgia combines the expertise of Children’s Sibley Heart Center with that of Emory’s Adult Congenital Heart Center to address this crucial need. It is the first program of its kind in the South and one of the largest in the country.
About Dr. Kogon
Brian E. Kogon, MD , is chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Children’s Sibley Heart Center and Emory University Hospital , surgical director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Emory University Hospital and director of the Congenital Cardiac Surgery Fellowship at the Emory University School of Medicine.
Dr. Kogon received his medical degree from the University of Cincinnati and completed his residency in general surgery and a fellowship in cardiothoracic surgery at Indiana University. He then went on to complete his fellowship in pediatric cardiac surgery at Emory University, joining the staff in 2004.
Dr. Kogon is now a nationally recognized leader in pediatric and adult congenital heart disease. He has numerous publications in peer-reviewed journals and presents nationally at the major cardiothoracic surgery society meetings. He has earned various awards over the years, most recently the Teacher of the Year award for Pediatric Cardiac Surgery from the Sibley Cardiology Fellowship Program and Emory University.
Dr. Kogon’s major areas of interest include pediatric cardiac surgery, cardiac transplantation and adult congenital heart surgery.
About the Congenital Heart Center of Georgia
The Congenital Heart Center of Georgia is a collaboration between Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta and Emory Healthcare. The Congenital Heart Center of Georgia is a comprehensive program for children and adults with congenital heart disease (CHD) that provides a continuum of lifesaving care from before birth through adulthood. The program is led by Emory Healthcare cardiologist Wendy Book, MD, Robert Campbell, MD, chief of cardiac services and director of cardiology at Children’s Sibley Heart Center, and Brian Kogon, MD, chief of Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery at Children’s Sibley Heart Center and Emory University Hospital and surgical director of the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program at Emory University Hospital. To schedule an appointment please call 404-778-7777.