Adult Congenital Heart Disease
Advanced care for a longer life
Congenital heart disease refers to heart defects people are born with, which don't always require medication or treatment. When they do, the heart specialists at Novant Health specialize in less invasive solutions that reduce the risk of complications and speed up recovery times.
FAQs about Adult Congenital Heart Disease
Adult congenital heart disease describes conditions related to structural heart problems, or defects, that were present at birth and require treatment during adulthood. These can include holes, leaky valves and other issues that can lead to arrhythmias and other conditions.
The likelihood of being born with a heart defect depends on the genes you inherit and conditions while in the womb, including:
- Alcohol or tobacco use
- Pre-existing conditions, including diabetes
- Infection by specific viruses, including rubella and the flu
- Use of certain medications, including anti-acne and anti-seizure drugs
You may never experience symptoms related to a congenital heart defect as an adult. However, there are common symptoms that often arise, including:
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling, especially in the legs and feet
- Faster or irregular heartbeat
- High blood pressure
- Enlarged heart
Depending on the type of congenital heart defect, adult congenital heart disease can lead to:
- Increased risk of heart failure
- Endocarditis, an infection in the heart
- Damage to blood vessel walls
- Certain types of strokes
An atrial septal defect is a hole between the left and right atria, or the upper chambers of your heart. The defect makes it harder for your heart to pump the blood needed for the rest of your body. It is usually repaired by the time you reach school age.
A ventricular septal defect is a hole between the left and right ventricles, or lower chambers of your heart. A small hole may not cause any symptoms, but a medium-sized to larger hole can lead to heart disease if not treated.
Patent foramen ovale describes a condition in which a flap controlling the flow of blood between the atria, does not close properly. When this occurs, your provider may recommend a surgical repair.
Adult Congenital Heart Disease Specialists
When your primary care provider concludes that your symptoms indicate a heart-related condition, they'll usually refer you to a general cardiologist to perform more in-depth tests and exams.
An interventional cardiologist has completed more extensive medical training than a general cardiologist. They can perform specific heart-related surgical procedures, including those often used to treat adult congenital heart disease.
A cardiothoracic surgeon specializes in heart surgery. The cardiac surgeons at Novant Health have decades of experience and can handle even the most complicated conditions as part of a personalized care plan.
A nuclear cardiologist is trained in advanced imaging techniques that determine how well your heart is functioning. This includes blood flow, the size of your heart, and the potential for or aftereffects of a heart attack (myocardial infarction).
Clinical cardiac electrophysiologist
A clinical cardiac electrophysiologist is a heart care specialist focused on diagnosing and treating heart rhythm disorders (arrhythmias). They're trained in interventional and surgical procedures.