Congenital Heart Defects and the need for better transition management
Ferrari, Daniel Mark
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INTRODUCTION: Congenital Heart Defects are the most common congenital defects in the United States. They affect a significant proportion of all births, and many babies with CCHDs are not expected to survive their first year. While diagnostic and surgical interventions have drastically improved mortality rates, a growing population of adolescent and adult CHD patients continue to face unique developmental, psychological and QoL issues. METHODS: Medical journal articles were utilized to determine the prevalence, mortality rates, survival rates, adverse psychological outcomes, and follow-up rates for CHD patients as they transitioned through adolescence. Most articles came from Pediatrics, The Journal of Pediatrics, and Circulation. RESULTS: From 1980-2005, the prevalence of CHDs in the United States increased, while CHD mortality decreased by nearly half. Over a similar time period, CHD patients were more likely to have poor psychological, behavioral, and QoL outcomes than their healthy peers. Specifically, CHD patients were likely to have developmental disorders, lower QoL, and loss to follow-up when transitioning to adult care providers. CHD patients also demonstrated a poor understanding of their condition, especially with respect to need for follow-up, identifying symptoms of deteriorating heart condition, and the negative effects of smoking, drugs, and alcohol. DISCUSSION: Diagnostic and surgical interventions for CHD patients have led to increased survival. However, many of these interventions occur in the early stages of life, leaving a gap in medical management of CHD patients as they transition through adolescence. This is represented by high attrition rates for those following-up with adult care providers, adverse psychosocial outcomes, and patients’ lack of knowledge about their condition. CHD patients may benefit from more comprehensive, coordinated and formal transition programs that incorporate good social support systems, self-efficacy, and education about their condition.