Doctors in Philly helping patients with Congenital Heart Disease lead active lives

Congenital Heart Disease affects millions of Americans, but doctors in Philadelphia are on the cutting edge of new technologies that are helping patients live longer and more active lives. 

It's estimated that 1 in 100 Americans are currently living with Congenital Heart Disease, which is simply defined as structural heart defects that patients are born and live with. 

"It means it happens structurally when the heart was developing, you carry that diagnosis throughout your lifespan," Dr. Stephanie Fuller from Children's Hospital of Philadelphia said.

Dr. Fuller and Dr. Yuli Kim run the Philadelphia Adult Congenital Heart Center, a joint partnership of Penn Medicine and Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia. 


With medical advancements and new technologies, people afflicted with Congenital Heart Disease like 27-year-old Ashlyn Karre are able to manage their condition and live healthy lives. 

"I was born with hyper plastic left heart," Karre said. ""It’s a lifelong condition that we’re stuck with and we have to follow cardiologists, take medications."

Ashlyn - who had three open-heart surgeries before she was 3-years-old - is a paramedic and leads a spin class at the Abington Club Gym.

FOX 29's Chris O'Connell found out seven years ago that he had 2 congenital heart defects after he suffered an ischemic stroke that caused permanent vision loss in one eye. 

Doctors found a rare quadricuspid heart valve and a hole in his heart that failed to close after he was born. After several surgeries and procedures, O'Connell manages his condition with monitoring and daily medication to lower the risk of another stroke.

Dr. Fuller says changes in surgical technologies, imaging and pharmaceuticals have helped doctors identify Congenital Heart Disease in unborn babies at 14–16 weeks. 

"It’s making sure that everyone with congenital heart disease has a chance to live life to the fullest," Dr. Fuller said.