| Vijayapraveena Paruchuri, MD, Director of the Center for Adult Congenital Heart Disease at NYU Winthrop, meets with patient Thomas Williams.
Until recently, Thomas Williams of Westbury was still seeing his pediatric cardiologist even though he is 45-years-old. Mr. Williams was born with Transposition of the Great Arteries (TGA), a congenital heart defect that occurs when the two main arteries of the heart the pulmonary artery and the aorta are switched in position. At the time, it wasn't clear what the future would hold.
"Doctors told my parents, 'Hopefully we'll get him into childhood and then we'll see what happens after that,'" recalled Mr. Williams, who underwent open heart surgery when he was three years old to correct the defect. He has thankfully been able to live a relatively normal life since - but his heart needs monitoring, and his unique condition requires equally unique care.
Thanks to medical breakthroughs and progress in treatment, individuals like Mr. Williams, who were born with congenital heart defects years ago, are living longer and reaching adulthood today. Many patients like Mr. Williams find themselves in pediatric offices because it can be difficult to transition into adult care, based on the unique architecture of their heart after procedures they had as children. To address this growing population, NYU Winthrop Hospital has created the Center for Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD), under the leadership of Vijayapraveena (Praveena) Paruchuri, MD, a Board Certified Internist and Cardiologist who specializes in Adult Congenital Heart Disease.
"Currently, there are more than one million adults in the United States living with repaired heart defects," said Dr. Paruchuri, one of only a handful of qualified specialists in the region. "Because of the advances in medicine and the skilled surgeons and pediatric cardiologists that are able to take care of these children, we now have an entire population of young adults and middle-aged individuals who have lived past childhood with repaired hearts. What these patients often don't realize, or were not told, is that these conditions may require regular monitoring during adulthood."
Now, Mr. Williams is out of the pediatric office and under the care of Dr. Paruchuri and the rest of the Center's multidisciplinary team, which includes Kevin Marzo, MD, Chief of the Division of Cardiology at NYU Winthrop; George Gubernikoff, MD, Director, Clinical Cardiac Services Medical Director, Center for Aortic Diseases at NYU Winthrop; and Juan Gaztanaga, MD, Director of Advanced Imaging. Each treatment plan at the Center is tailored to the patient and may consist of echocardiography, arrhythmia monitoring, advanced cardiac imaging, cardiac CT and diagnostic catheterizations. If the patient is pregnant, the team works closely with NYU Winthrop's Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine and NYU Winthrop's world-renowned, high-risk obstetricians. The Center also works closely with NYU Winthrop's exceptional pediatric cardiology team to transition young adults into adult care.
"At NYU Winthrop, we pride ourselves on our collaborative approach to care and treatment," said Dr. Paruchuri.
Mr. Williams learned of the Center through his wife's doctor, a physician at NYU Winthrop, and says he is relieved to be out of a pediatric office and under the care of a Center equipped for adult issues. One condition that Dr. Paruchuri will be monitoring is his arrhythmia (abnormal heart rate), a long-term effect of his childhood surgery.
"As the number of patients continues to rise, it is important to note that a majority of these initial repairs were not 'cures' but rather corrections that require life-long follow up," said Dr. Marzo. "In addition, as patients grow older, this distinct population requires care for routine conditions of adulthood, and should be monitored for risk factors like obesity, hypertension, diabetes and coronary artery disease."
"This patient population is truly reflective of the success of modern medicine," said Dr. Paruchuri. "These children would not have lived past their fifth birthdays if the pioneering surgeons and doctors didn't keep pushing the envelope. NYU Winthrop's extraordinary care will make all the difference to these adults."
For more information on the comprehensive services available within NYU Winthrop's Division of Cardiology, call 1-866-WINTHROP or visit www.winthrop.org.