Heart and Vascular Care / Heart and Vascular Programs and Services / Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program

Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program

Perhaps you had heart surgery as a child because of congenital heart disease and are wondering how to best care for your heart as an adult. Or you may have been diagnosed with a congenital heart defect as an adult. Whatever your experience, our congenital heart disease specialists understand your unique health needs. 

Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute has one of the largest programs in the region specializing in adult congenital heart disease. We have the expertise to provide you with the most comprehensive, effective care possible. Our goal is to help you live a healthy, active life and manage any challenges along the way.

Adult Congenital Heart Disease: Why Choose Vanderbilt

At our center, you will find:

  • Top specialists in the field: Adult congenital heart disease is a highly specialized area of heart care. At Vanderbilt, we have 3 primary adult congenital heart specialists including the center’s director, Larry Markham, MD, who is board certified in adult congenital heart disease. 
  • Tailored care: Whether you need a heart treatment or you are seeking guidance about exercise or pregnancy, we can provide the care you need. Our expert team offers the full spectrum of care, from consultation and diagnosis to treatment and rehabilitation.
  • Coordination and communication: We aim to be a resource for anyone on your care team. Our congenital heart specialists work closely with your primary care physician or local cardiologist to ensure you get effective care. We also collaborate with the Monroe Carell Jr. Children’s Hospital at Vanderbilt Pediatric Heart Institute to provide young patients with a seamless transition to adult care.
  • Access to advanced heart and vascular care: We perform advanced surgeries to repair valves or structural defects. We also provide specialized services such as genetic counseling and expert prenatal care.
  • Comprehensive long-term care: We stay with our patients for life. We get to know you and your preferences so we can tailor our care. From routine monitoring to surgery to managing recovery, our team will be with you every step of the way, helping you achieve optimal heart health.

Types of Adult Congenital Heart Disease We Treat

We treat the full spectrum of congenital heart conditions, including:

  • Problems of the valve: Valve problems prevent blood from flowing as it should. This includes:
    • Bicuspid aortic valve disease, when the valve has 2 leaflets instead of the normal 3
    • Aortic stenosis and aortic valve regurgitation, which occur when the aortic valve has trouble opening (stenosis) or it leaks (regurgitation)
    • Pulmonary stenosis and pulmonary regurgitation, which occur when the pulmonary valve has trouble opening (stenosis) or it leaks (regurgitation) 
    • Ebstein’s anomaly of the tricuspid valve, a rare defect when the valve between upper right chamber and lower right chamber (tricuspid valve) doesn’t form properly
  • Septal defects: The septa are the walls of the heart. While a baby is developing during pregnancy, the septa may not close properly, leaving a hole in the heart that needs to be closed. Septal defects include atrial septal defect, atrioventricular septal defect and ventricular septal defect.
  • Single ventricle problems: Ventricles help collect and distribute blood. Abnormalities with the ventricle include tricuspid atresia, double inlet left ventricle, hypoplastic right heart syndrome, hypoplastic left heart syndrome or any patients who have had a Fontan procedure.
  • Tetralogy of Fallot: This is a combination of 4 congenital heart defects.
  • Vein and artery problems: Conditions include:
  • Coarctation of the aorta: When a part of the aorta is too narrow, it can restrict blood flow.
  • Eisenmenger syndrome: This condition is a complication of a number of congenital heart defects. Abnormally high blood pressure in the lungs results in oxygen-poor blood being pumped to the organs and tissues.
  • Arrhythmias: These are heart rhythm problems, such as tachycardia (heartbeat that is too fast) and bradycardia (heartbeat that is too slow).

Adult Congenital Heart Disease Tests and Diagnosis

Some congenital heart problems are not diagnosed until later in life. If we suspect that you may have a congenital heart defect, we will perform one or more tests to confirm the diagnosis:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG), to record your heart’s electrical activity
  • Imaging tests, including chest X-ray, computed tomography (CT) or magnetic resonance imaging (MRI), which give us a detailed picture of your heart and lungs
  • Exercise stress test, a test to evaluate your heart’s electrical activity, heart rate and blood pressure while you exercise (usually while walking on a treadmill). If you cannot exercise, we will give you a medicine that simulates the results of exercise.
  • Cardiac catheterization, a procedure where we insert a thin tube called a catheter into your blood vessels. We thread the catheter to your heart while an X-ray takes detailed images of your heart and blood vessels.

Adult Congenital Heart Disease Treatments

There are many treatment options for adults with congenital heart disease. Your heart team will work with you to decide on the right treatment, which may include:

  • Medication: We may be able to control your symptoms with medication and regular monitoring.
  • Pacemaker or implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD): These implantable devices help control your heartbeat and restore normal heart rhythms. Learn more about pacemakers and implantable cardioverter defibrillators.
  • Cardiac catheterization: We can often correct or repair defects and even replace valves with this minimally invasive procedure.
  • Heart surgery: If a cardiac catheterization is not sufficient, we may recommend traditional open-heart surgery.
  • Heart transplant: Sometimes, we cannot repair the defect through surgery. You may be a candidate for a heart transplant surgery.

Vanderbilt Heart and Vascular Institute Locations

Our experienced team of doctors may see patients at additional locations. To find the location closest to you, call (615) 322-2318.

Medical Center East
1215 21st Ave S., 5th Floor
Nashville, TN 37232
(615) 322-2318
Map and Directions

Adult Congenital Heart Disease Physicians