Adult Congenital Heart Disease Care

If you were born with a heart problem, you likely have congenital heart disease and will need lifelong care.

Depend on our specialists, who have the experience and dedicated training to provide you with the best care. The adult congenital heart disease program at UC San Diego Health is the only program of its kind south of Los Angeles.

We are also the first and only program in San Diego to be accredited as a comprehensive care center by the Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA). This distinction makes us uniquely qualified to treat people over age 16 who were born with a heart defect.

What Are Congenital Heart Defects?

Congenital heart defects are abnormalities in the heart's structure that are present since birth. These defects can involve the valves within the heart, the interior walls of the heart, or the veins and arteries associated with the heart.

Advances in surgical techniques have allowed most children born with heart defects to survive into adulthood. An estimated 1.6 million adults in the U.S. live with congenital heart disease.

Types of congenital heart defects include:

  • A hole between chambers of the heart (atrial septal defect, ventricular septal defect and patent foramen ovale)
  • Valve defects, such as narrowed valves (pulmonary valve stenosis) or abnormally shaped valves (aortic atresia)

View Types of Congenital Heart Defects

Most congenital heart defects are detected shortly after birth, although some are not discovered for years. Some can be managed by open-heart surgery or cardiac catheterization or can be watched without intervention.

In most cases, the cause of congenital heart defects is unknown. Factors that can increase the chance of having a heart defect include:

  • Family history of congenital heart disease
  • Certain genetic syndromes
  • Unknown environmental factors

A congenital heart defect can also increase the risk of developing complications, such as heart failure, endocarditis, atrial arrhythmia and heart valve problems.

Marfan Syndrome and other Connective Tissue Disorders

UC San Diego Health has special expertise in treating Marfan syndrome, a genetic disorder that affects the body's connective tissue. Our clinic also offers genetic testing and counseling for patients who meet the criteria.

We are designated as a Marfan Clinic by the Marfan Foundation which means patients with Marfan syndrome and related disorders turn to us first for coordinated care.

Read More About Marfan Syndrome in our Health Library

Other Connective Tissue Disorders

Related Resources

Adult Congenital Heart Disease Expertise

Many patients who had heart surgery in childhood may have been told their hearts were "fixed." However, all these patients should get follow-up care from experts in treating congenital heart disease.

The Adult Congenital Heart Association (ACHA) has recognized UC San Diego Health as a comprehensive care center for our excellent quality of care.

Who Needs to Be Evaluated at a Comprehensive Center?

  • Adults who were born with a heart defect
  • Those who had any heart surgery or catheterization as a child
  • Patients currently followed by a general or pediatric cardiologist who wish to obtain a second opinion or to transition their care to a comprehensive adult congenital heart disease center

Diagnosis and Treatment

We may use a wide variety of diagnostic tests to confirm congenital heart defects, including echocardiogram, cardiac MRI, cardiac CT, electrocardiogram and transesophageal echocardiogram.See Screening & Diagnosis

Your treatment options depend on the type and severity of the defect. The options may include medications, cardiac catheterization and percutaneous interventions (like Melody valve or TAVR valve), minimally invasive cardiac surgery, beating heart cardiac surgery or open-heart surgery.Learn More About Our Heart Care

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