Sign In
Cook Children's
Patient Portal

Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD)

Dr. Pilgrim showing results to adult patient

Appointments and referrals

phone icon
Call 682-885-2140

Brilliant advancements in pediatric medicine and surgery mean that more and more children are not only surviving, but growing up to become adults who are leading full lives. That also means that the need for ongoing care for adults with congenital heart defects is growing as well.

Here at Cook Children's, we care for the needs of patients with congenital heart disease from the moment they're born, and we stay with them all the way into adulthood. Our Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) is one of only a few formal programs nationwide to offer inpatient and outpatient care for teen and adult patients with congenital heart disease, because adulthood, like childhood, should be as simple as possible.

Dr. Pilgrim with adult congenital heart patient

Making an impact on the growing need for lifelong congenital heart patient care

Cook Children’s Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) Medical Director, Scott Pilgrim, M.D. shares his experience with the ACHD program and the successes they have seen over the years. He shares how the program is one of the few programs in the nation that cares for the needs of their patients from the moment they are born and through adulthood.

What is adult congenital heart disease?

The term congenital means to be born with. Congenital heart disease (CHD) is the most common birth defect, affecting nearly 1% of all newborns. The types of defects can range in severity from very simple congenital heart defects (holes between chambers and mild valve obstruction) to complex cases (missing valves or chambers). CHD used to be thought of as a pediatric, or childhood, condition. This was also due to the fact that many people born with serious congenital heart conditions didn't survive to adulthood.

Today that has changed, thanks to advances in medical and surgical care over the last several decades. Now, patients born with congenital heart defects are surviving and thriving well into adulthood. However, few types of congenital heart defects are considered "cured," and most require lifelong follow-up. This has created a growing population of adolescent and adult cardiac patients that continue to require specialized, life-long care. Conservative estimates predict that there are more than 1 million adults in the United States with congenital heart disease. This means there are currently more adults than children with congenital heart disease in the United States.

The health issues faced by this unique population are numerous and require specialists with a working knowledge of their congenital heart defect and how it might interact with adult onset disease processes. Joint guidelines published in 2008 by the American Heart Association and American College of Cardiology recommend that all adults with congenital heart disease be evaluated at least once in a formal program. The type and frequency of follow-up within the program is determined by the nature and complexity of the underlying heart defect. Unfortunately, less than 10 percent of adults with CHD receive this care currently. Cook Children's is helping to change those statistics.

What we do

Our expert team of cardiologists, cardiac surgeons, diagnosticians, technicians and health care professionals provide advanced, ongoing, care for adults with congenital heart disease, including:

Our pioneering ACHD program coordinates with the following specialties to provide first-class comprehensive care of adults with congenital heart disease:

Who we treat

Led by Scott Pilgrim, M.D., Medical Director, Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program, our team meets the very unique needs these patients, providing:

  • Inpatient and outpatient consultation
  • Echocardiography and advanced cardiac imaging
  • Cardiopulmonary exercise stress testing
  • Diagnostic and interventional cardiac catheterization
  • Diagnostic and interventional electrophysiology
  • Congenital cardiothoracic surgery

Any teenager or adult patient with a previously confirmed or newly suspected diagnosis of congenital heart disease should be referred to an ACHD program for a formal evaluation. Surveillance, diagnostic and interventional procedures are scheduled according to published guidelines.

Additionally, the ACHD program provides women of child-bearing potential with important education regarding birth control options, pre-pregnancy counselling and risk assessment. Women who are already pregnant are followed in conjunction with the obstetrician, maternal fetal medicine, fetal cardiology and anesthesia teams with a coordinated delivery plan.

The role of this program will vary based on the patient's needs and is not meant to replace the current care the patient is receiving. All ACHD patients should have a primary care physician and can continue with their local cardiologist, in addition to the ACHD specialist.

Conditions we treat

There are many different types of congenital heart defects ranging from very simple to extraordinarily complex lesions. Our nationally recognized cardiology team treats a wide range of adult congenital diseases, which include but are not limited to:

Congenital defectsLearn more about the adult congenital conditions we treat at Cook Children's – Cook Children's Heart Center is nationally recognized for its expert care, advanced treatments, and heart specialists who have expertise in the care of adults with congenital heart disease.

Cook Children's Adult Congenital Heart Disease team

Scott Pilgrim M.D.Scott Pilgrim M.D.
Medical Director, Adult Congenital Heart Disease
View biography
Deborah Schutte M.D.Deborah Schutte M.D.
Medical Director, Cardiology
View biography
Matthew Dzurik M.D.Matthew Dzurik M.D.
Medical Director, Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory
View biography
James Kuo M.D.James Kuo M.D.
Pediatric Cardiologist
View biography
Steve Muyskens M.D.Steve Muyskens M.D.
Medical Director, Cardiac MRI
View biography
Vincent Tam M.D.Vincent Tam M.D.
Medical Director, Cardiothoracic Surgery
View biography

Lifelong adult congenital heart disease support

Lifelong adult congenital heart disease specialty services include:

Through our Social Services program, we also work with teens and young adults to help them overcome unique obstacles such as:

  • Managing their health and medications
  • Balancing school, work, recreation and finances with their specific health needs
  • Risk prevention, new treatments, managing other medical and physical conditions that can affect their heart condition and offering emotional support.

At Cook Children's Heart Center, many of our patients grow up with us. We want to be here to provide continual care for infants through adulthood, because when it comes to our patients, we're here for life.

Appointments and referrals

Rare and complex congenital heart defects don’t always present a clear cut method of treatment. Often, there are multiple ways of approaching the diagnosis. Our physicians also are available to provide second opinions for families seeking alternative treatment options. If you would like to schedule an appointment, refer a patient or speak to our staff, please call our offices at 682-885-2140.