Congenital Heart Disease Treatment for Your Child at UVA Children's

At UVA Children's, we understand the worries and questions facing a parent with a baby who has congenital heart disease. We’re with you at every step: from diagnosis during pregnancy to your child’s birth and care in our NICU. We're here when surgery or heart transplants are needed. You won't find more support anywhere else.

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Thomas L'Ecuyer, MD: UVA is the right place for families that have children with congenital heart disease, because of the quality of the team that takes care of these patients.

James Gangemi, MD: I think that, you know, from the time a pregnant mom gets referred to our pediatric cardiologists, from that first visit, they are part of our program and they feel like they are the only patient that is at this hospital.

Leslie Peregoy, MSN, PNP: I often meet the child and their family at the time of diagnosis, or shortly after. They are often very scared and worried. It's our goal to ensure that they know we are here for them.

Gangemi: Everybody takes care of the children as if he or she is their own child.

Jeffrey Vergales, MD: The vast majority of congenital heart disease in our current era is diagnosed by ultrasound. Sometimes that ultrasound is performed when the baby is still inside mom. At that point, we call that a fetal echocardiogram and we can be very, very good about diagnosing the vast majority of congenital heart disease all the way down to around 18 to 20 weeks gestation.

L'Ecuyer: At UVA, we offer surgical treatment and catheter-based treatment of almost every single congenital heart defect.

Gangemi: Probably the most complex heart defect that we take care of are babies that are born with only one ventricle and they need a series of operations. They need multiple cardiac catheterizations, frequent follow-ups with our pediatric cardiologists, so, it definitely takes a team.

Peregoy: As far as the care of our patients with single ventricle physiology goes, we are part of a national group called the National Pediatric Cardiology Quality Improvement Collaborative.

Vergales: At UVA, we're very proud of our outcomes. Our outcomes exceed the national average for virtually all forms of congenital heart disease. L'Ecuyer: And our outcomes are absolutely fabulous. And I think that should make it easier for a family to decide if UVA is the right place for them to receive care for their child.

Vergales: Parents should be empowered. They really should be empowered to ask their providers for that data. To ask for the providers to meet the people that are going to be in charge of ensuring that outcome. We on average have a length of stay that is almost half that of what the rest of the nation sees. That means that we're doing a great job of getting kids home and keeping them at home.

Gangemi: I honestly feel like I do not want a patient to leave this state to have surgery elsewhere, because they're not going to get any better care. They're not going to get better outcomes than if they're done right here.

Vergales: We realize that as a major referral center, we oftentimes have patients that come from hours and hours and hours away from Charlottesville. Consequently, we have numerous support structures that are in place. Our social work team is phenomenal here. We offer food daily in our hospital for families that are here, to make sure that they don't have to think about how are we going to eat today.

Gangemi: I am the luckiest person in the world to be able to do what I do because of the people that I work with. And it's not just the surgery, it's all aspects of the care of these patients. And everybody that we work with is made to feel like a valued member of the team.

Peregoy: I think there are lots of good parts of my job, but absolutely the best is being able to support a child and their family through some of the most difficult days that they could ever imagine.

Vergales: We will sit down with families as long as it takes. We will hold their hands, we will cry with them, we will hug them, we will do anything that they need to understand that they are engendering us with their most prized possession, their child.

L'Ecuyer: We need to assume that every child is uniquely important to their family, regardless of their degree of medical complexity, or other problems. And we need to recognize that what our goals for care for a particular situation might be, could very well be different than the parents. How well did we succeed in meeting and exceeding the parents' expectations.
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