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What are the symptoms of adult congenital heart disease (ACHD)?

The symptoms of adult congenital heart disease are similar to the symptoms of a pediatric patient who has congenital heart disease. These would include shortness of breath, palpitations, chest pain or fullness in the chest, reduced exercise tolerance and generalized weakness. Patients may have headaches, cold hands, an abnormal skin color from the changes in their circulation and changes in their blood counts. Many times when patients undergo therapeutic procedures to help their hearts, their symptoms will improve.
Emile A. Bacha, MD
Thoracic Surgery (Cardiothoracic Vascular)

Since consequences of early heart repairs often develop slowly and without symptoms, people are often unaware that a problem may exist. Anyone who has had open-heart surgery as a child should be evaluated by a specialist in adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) and at the very minimum have an annual echocardiogram.

Thousands of people have had open-heart surgery and think they are fine, but they are typically sedentary. They often say, “I feel fine, but I don't exercise because I get short of breath or cramps.” So they feel okay, but they are living sedentary lives. When we see such people, we often find they have a leaky heart valve, or a hole in the heart that was left behind. Once that problem is corrected, people are thrilled -- they can go up stairs without becoming winded, and they stop feeling short of breath. Yet until they come in for evaluation, they just think it is normal to feel that way.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.