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Comprehensive Care for Congenital Heart Conditions

Christopher L. Lindblade, MD.

Given that congenital heart disease is the most prevalent type of birth defect in the U.S., it’s no surprise that roughly two-thirds of referrals to the Center for Fetal and Neonatal Care are for potential cardiovascular malformations.

To that end, the Center for Fetal and Neonatal Care is fully integrated with the Phoenix Children’s Fetal Cardiology Program. This team of fetal cardiologists and fetal cardiac sonographers has extensive experience making accurate diagnoses, predicting outcomes and leading perinatal planning efforts.

“The first step for many of our mothers is a fetal echocardiogram,” says Christopher Lindblade, MD, director of the Fetal Cardiology Program. “That step is extremely important. It’s been proven time and again that a prenatal diagnosis of congenital heart disease improves morbidity and mortality. However, if you drill down and look at all the factors that influence outcomes, we’re more likely to achieve success if that diagnosis is accompanied by care coordination, a perinatal management plan and a comprehensive family support system.”

After a diagnosis, families are connected with coordinators and caregivers who guide them, one step at a time, through each subsequent phase of their journey.

“Together with the Center for Fetal and Neonatal Care, we pull in all the experts who will be involved in the baby’s care before and after birth,” says Dr. Lindblade. “This could include the cardiologist who provides prenatal treatment for fetal arrhythmias, the cardiothoracic surgeon who will repair a structural heart defect during the first year of life, or a social worker who can connect mom with counseling or other support services.”

The teams also work together to create delivery plans for babies with critical heart defects who will need intervention immediately after delivery.

Collaboration Improves Congenital Heart Disease Care

Among the many congenital conditions Phoenix Children’s treats, cardiovascular malformations are the most common. But before that treatment can occur, families often need one or more imaging tests to pinpoint problems with heart structure or function.

“In many cases, we can diagnose congenital heart problems with a fetal echocardiogram alone,” says Dr. Lindblade. “But sometimes we can’t fully predict outcomes without obtaining a detailed fetal MRI of the heart, and that’s when we partner with Dr. Goncalves and his team. When we put together data obtained by the echocardiogram and the MRI, it gives us more information than either exam can provide independently. And that can significantly impact treatment plans and outcomes.”

Families not only have access to some of the most advanced fetal imaging technologies available, but many can undergo tests right in their own community. Phoenix Children’s offers fetal echocardiograms and consultations with fetal cardiologists at several outpatient clinics throughout the Phoenix metropolitan area.