Adults treated for congenital heart disease at Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

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PITTSBURGH - Doctors have been treating Sunshine Hogue from the day she was born with a complex congenital heart disease.

Now, 30 years later, she’s still getting that care, but at a children’s hospital.

“It's comforting to know that the doctors who took care of you as a baby are still comfortable taking care of you as an adult. That's very comforting,” Hogue said.

Every six months, Hogue comes to the Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center at UPMC Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh.

It’s the only center of its kind in Western Pennsylvania.

“It's nice to have someone who understands the pediatric problem that I have, as well as who can help me through the other complications that I would develop,” Hogue said.

Dr. Stephen Cooke heads the ACHD Center. He said pediatric cardiologists have a skill set their adult counterparts do not.

“I think it's the knowledge in what types of surgical repairs that they've had in the past and what to expect in what types of late onset complications that that patient will develop in their late teenage years, their late adolescent years and probably, most importantly, their young adulthood years,” Cooke said.

Cook said these patients are more likely to develop significant heart rhythm problems, or arrhythmias. Heart failure is possible from their previous surgical repairs, as is sudden cardiac death.

For that reason, Hogue made it a priority to find an ACHD center when she moved to Pennsylvania.

“Sometimes it's actually scary for me to go to adult hospitals,” she said. “I feel uncomfortable there, more uncomfortable than I do in a children's hospital because this is where I am used to receiving care.”

February 7 through 14 marks Congenital Heart Defect Awareness Week.

There are about 100 ACHD centers nationwide and only three in Pennsylvania.

To learn more about the ACHD Center at Children’s Hospital of Pittsburgh, visit their website.