Interventional Cardiology and Pediatric Cardiology partner to form the Adults with Congenital Heart Disease Clinic at UNC

The UNC Center for Heart and Vascular Care has partnered with UNC Pediatric Cardiology to form the Adults with Congenital Heart Disease Clinic to provide specialized care for adults who are living with congenital heart disease.

Interventional Cardiology and Pediatric Cardiology partner to form the Adults with Congenital Heart Disease Clinic at UNC click to enlarge Michael Yeung, MD, Assistant Professor of Cardiology
Interventional Cardiology and Pediatric Cardiology partner to form the Adults with Congenital Heart Disease Clinic at UNC click to enlarge Elman Frantz, MD, Chief, Division of Pediatric Cardiology

Congenital heart disease is a malformation of the heart involving heart chambers, heart valves or major blood vessels, and is present at birth.

UNC physicians within the division of Pediatric Cardiology provide comprehensive diagnostic and therapeutic services for fetuses, infants, children and adolescents with cardiac conditions. The pediatric cardiology group practices through the N.C. Children’s Heart Center centered at North Carolina Children’s Hospital. It is one of the largest children's heart programs in the state, offering innovative treatment to more than half of the state's pediatric heart patients.

In the past, many infants and children with congenital heart disease did not survive to adulthood.  However, as medical care and treatment have advanced, people with congenital heart defects are living longer, healthier lives. The CDC estimates that nearly one million adults in the United States are living with a congenital heart defect.  As children transition to adulthood, ongoing specialized cardiac care will help people with congenital heart disease to live as healthy a life as possible.

Michael Yeung, MD, Assistant Professor of Cardiology, treats patients in the new Adult Congenital Heart Disease clinic in partnership with Elman Frantz, MD, Chief, Division of Pediatric Cardiology and Rick Stouffer, MD, Director, Interventional Cardiology.

“Congenital heart disease forces cardiologists to think a bit differently,” says Dr. Yeung.  “The anatomy and physiology of the heart is altered in patients with a congenital heart condition, and the challenge that it offers is something that I enjoy.  Helping these patients live a longer, more productive life is very satisfying.”

Specialties of the clinic include treating patients with septal defects, PFO (patent foramen ovale), valve disorders, cyanotic heart disease and other coronary artery abnormalities.

Dr. Frantz explains that the new clinic helps pediatric cardiology patients at UNC seamlessly transition to an adult cardiac specialist, who has immediate access to their medical records and can easily consult with their UNC pediatric cardiologist.

“Obviously, this is very beneficial for the children we’ve been treating at UNC throughout their childhood.  They have the option to continue receiving the world-class specialized cardiac care that UNC offers,” explains Dr. Frantz. “However, regardless of who treated them as a child, it is very important for adults with congenital heart disease to find a cardiologist who specializes in treating structural heart defects and any other disorders that are caused by their congenital condition.”

Hilda Cheek of Caswell County did not realize she had congenital heart disease until she was an adult, when she began to suffer from pulmonary problems.  After seeing many different physicians, she was referred to Dr. Yeung.  During her echocardiogram, Dr. Yeung discovered a large atrial septal defect (ASD).  An ASD is present at birth and results in a hole between the upper chambers of the heart. hilda Cheek

Patient Hilda Cheek had her large atrial septal defect repaired by Michael Yeung, MD, Assistant Professor of Cardiology and clinician in the Adults with Congenital Heart Disease Clinic

At this time, it was becoming difficult to breathe when Cheek did the simplest things, like walk up a set of steps.  “I was gasping for breath when going up my stairs,” says Cheek. “My feet were swelling and my legs were holding a lot of fluid.”

Dr. Yeung repaired the ASD with a minimally- invasive procedure in the UNC Cardiac Catheterization Lab.  He explains, “We repaired her ASD in a similar way to how we put in heart stents.  We delivered the ASD closure device through one vein of her leg, and a tiny intracardiac ultrasound camera through her other vein in order to guide the deployment of the device.”

The results were “fantastic,” says Cheek.  “I can breathe much better and walk up my steps without any problem.  I got my life back.”

New patients are being accepted in the Adults with Congenital Heart Disease Clinic with immediate availability.  Referring physicians and adult patients can contact the Open Access Referral Center at 866-862-4327 to schedule an appointment.  The clinic is conveniently located in Chapel Hill at the UNC Center for Heart and Vascular Care at Meadowmont.  Free on-site parking is available for all patients.