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Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Program
One in 100 babies born in the United States each year has a congenital heart defect of some kind. As these babies become adults, they often need continued care even if they underwent surgical corrections in childhood. Sometimes, congenital heart disease symptoms (such as abnormal heart rhythms, shortness of breath, dizziness, or swelling) may not appear and need care until later in life. Learn more about caring for congenital heart disease in adulthood from our ACHD webinar series.
One of the nation's leading programs for ACHD
People born with congenital heart defects are living longer and longer into adulthood. If you're part of this growing population, it's good to know the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program (ACHD Program) offered by the Herma Heart Institute at Children's Wisconsin is one of the leading programs in the nation, and the largest in the state of Wisconsin. Our program works in conjunction with Froedtert & the Medical College of Wisconsin to offer the specialized expertise you need to live life to the fullest. Our program is an ACHD Comprehensive Care Center accredited by the Adult Congenital Heart Association, recognizing us as a leader in Adult Congenital Heart Disease care and management.
Uniquely qualified ACHD specialists
Our team of experts includes Peter Bartz, MD, Matthew Buelow, MD, Scott Cohen, MD, Jennifer Gerardin, MD, Salil Ginde, MD and Andrew Pistner, MD — the largest care team in the state formally trained to care for adults with congenital heart disease. Drs. Bartz, Buelow, Cohen, Gerardin and Ginde also see patients at Froedtert & the Medical College. Their advanced training in both pediatric and adult cardiology makes them exceptionally qualified to provide complete care as patients transition from adolescence to adulthood. The team has been awarded highly competitive research grants and published nearly 50 Adult Congenital Heart Disease articles in the last decade.
Care that covers the full range of needs for adults with congenital heart disease
Many congenital heart disease conditions and genetic heart disorders can have serious cardiac and non-cardiac complications for adults. These conditions include:
- Coarctation of the aorta
- Congenital valve defects
- Dilated aorta
- Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy (HCM)
- Hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS)
- Marfan syndrome and other connective tissue disorders
- Patent foramen ovale (PFO)
- Pulmonary atresia
- Tetralogy of Fallot
- Transposition of the great arteries (vessels)
These and other congenital heart defects can impact physical activity, pregnancy, and other aspects of life as an adult. Additionally, our Marfan Syndrome Program is the largest in the state and recognized nationally for its expert care for adults with this rare genetic heart disorder.
Through our partnership with Froedtert & The Medical College, we offer all the inpatient and outpatient services for treatment of adult congenital heart defects. This includes:
- Medication management
- Care for related pulmonary hypertension
- Cardiac catheterization procedures
Expert ACHD treatment, close to home
In addition to Milwaukee, our adult congenital heart disease specialists have clinics in other locations throughout the state of Wisconsin and in upper Michigan. Patients can schedule initial assessments and follow-up care at these convenient locations. Evening appointments are available in some locations.
Helping adults with congenital heart disease live healthier lives with Healthy Lifestyles Program
The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is home to Healthy Lifestyles, a free 12-week program that promotes weight loss through diet and exercise modification. Program participants will receive a pedometer to track steps and access to a mobile app to track diet and exercise, and will speak with an ACHD team member weekly to discuss progress. Participants will also receive weekly tips as resources during the program. Contact us more information or to apply for the program.
Frequently asked questions about adult congenital heart disease (ACHD)
To learn more about adult congenital heart disease (ACHD), we encourage you to read the following frequently asked questions (FAQs).
Why is a special ACHD program necessary?
Since adults with congenital heart disease live longer than ever before, we have learned that even the simplest defects can produce long-term effects and complications. These include both cardiac and non-cardiac problems.
Cardiac complications include:
- Rhythm problems (arrhythmias)
- Heart block
- Heart failure
- Residual holes
- Leaky and tight valves
- High blood pressure
Non-cardiac issues include:
- Learning disabilities
- Hearing problems
- Vision problems
- Lung problems
To make an appointment, contact us.
I am thinking of getting pregnant. What risks might impact me?
In general, pregnancy in women living with congenital heart disease is safe, but for some, pregnancy may have significant risks to the mom and unborn baby. One of the biggest concerns is the increased stress on the heart. Learn more about the care provided to pregnant women with adult congenital heart disease.
As an adult with congenital heart disease, do I need regular follow-up care?
Most adults who have had heart surgery as a child should see a heart doctor for life. It's especially important to see an board-certified adult congenital heart disease cardiologist, as general adult cardiologists are not trained to care for hearts that were surgically corrected in childhood.
Early warning signs to see a doctor
While many people may not experience any symptoms, see an ACHD specialist if you experience any of these warning signs:
- Heart racing
- Extra heart beats
- Trouble keeping up with usual exercise routines
- Feeling easily exhausted, for example when walking up stairs.
See a doctor for these non-cardiac situations
Some life situations require special attention for patients with ACHD. These scenarios can have a major impact on quality of life. Our experienced physicians and surgeons can help in situations including:
- Obtaining health and life insurance
- Birth control
- Exercise restrictions
- Learning disabilities
Adults with some congenital conditions may do not need to see a doctor if heart defects were treated before irreversible heart or lung damage developed. Those conditions include:
Contact us to make an appointment.
How can I contact the ACHD program?
Our Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is here to help with appointments, questions and comments.
To make an appointment for adult congenital heart disease care or to refer a patient, call (414) 266-6784.
We welcome your questions about adult congenital heart care. Submit questions and comments through our Contact Us form. We will do our best to respond within 24 hours on weekdays.
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Contact us ACHD
Having met the highest standards for caring for adults with congenital heart disease, our Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is a leading program in the nation and the largest in the state accredited as an ACHA ACHD Accredited Comprehensive Care Center, the highest designation possible.
Meet Jenni: a 37-year-old woman who had corrective heart surgery when she was a child. After years of not seeing a cardiologist, doctors in our Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program said she was a heart attack waiting to happen. Read the story of how Jenni dodged death.