WKYT Investigates: More congenital heart doctors needed for adults

LEXINGTON, Ky. (WKYT) - Just a year ago, it would have been impossible for Adrianne Rogers to make the short walk from UK's parking garage to UK HealthCare's Gill Heart and Vascular Institute. But now, it's no big deal.

"Now, every time I see her, there's a big smile on her face. So active," explained Dr. Andrew Leventhal as he gave her a hug during a special visit a few weeks ago.

Dr. Leventhal is the director of Adult Congenital Heart Defect Clinic. He is one of less than 100 doctors in the country specializing in congenital heart disease in adults. "It's really a different set of issues as an adult than someone who dealt with it as a child," he explained to WKYT's Miranda Combs.

"This is a need that wasn't here 20 years ago?" Combs asked.

"That's right. It's grown dramatically because kids did not make it to adulthood. Through the advances in the pediatric cardiology teams, the surgeries, the post-operative care, now over 95 percent of those patients are making it to adulthood," Dr. Leventhal said. He went on, "I did a specific fellowship where all I did was treat adults who have congenital heart disease."

Adrianne's case came to Dr. Leventhal last year. She had a very rare heart condition that was being monitored by a pediatric heart doctor, but her condition was declining when she hit her 20s. "He's like, I don't know how fast this is going to happen for you. And he's like, I just don't feel comfortable sending you home and that very day I was admitted to the hospital," Adrianne recalled.

Just before Christmas 2016, Adrianne received a new heart. "I could feel it beating in my back and it was so weird I was so uncomfortable. I was like this is what it's like to have a normal heart," she said.

Dr. Leventhal said most of his patients are in their 20s and 30s. He's filling a need that's continuing to grow.

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