Background: The population of adults with congenital heart disease is growing rapidly, and the transition of care from the pediatric to the adult setting is often not optimal.
Objectives: To assess the level of knowledge that adults with congenital heart disease have of their condition.
Methods: All new patients referred to an adult congenital heart centre were asked to answer questions about their clinical diagnosis, their need and reason for anti-bioprophylaxis, and their risks of pregnancy when applicable. The patient's age at first visit, source of referral and time from last visit in cardiology (defined as the last visit with a cardiologist) were also noted.
Results: From November 1999 to July 2000, 104 patients (42 men) were referred to the adult centre by pediatric cardiologists (56), medical cardiologists (26), general practitioners (11), dentists (two) or obstetricians (two), or they were self-referred (seven). The mean age at the time of referral was 28 11 years (range 16 to 72 years, median 24 years). The time from the last visit in cardiology varied widely from one month to 25 years (median three years), with 29 patients (28%) having had no follow-up for more than five years. Among these, 14 patients had no follow-up for more than 10 years, with six patients having been referred for complications related to their cardiac anatomy, such as heart failure (Eisenmenger, Ebstein), syncope (operated and unoperated tetralogy of Fallot) and arrhythmias (atrial septal defect, unoperated Fallot). The clinical diagnosis was completely unknown by 36 patients (34.6%), including patients with repaired Fallot (three patients), Mustard procedure (two), severe aortic stenosis (two), severe pulmonary stenosis (one), Eisenmenger (one), unoperated Fallot (one), ventricular septal defect (six) and bicuspid aortic valve (seven). Seventy-three patients (79%) knew about antibiotic prophylaxis, but 50% did not comprehend why they needed it. Many women (66%) had never discussed the risks of pregnancy with their physician.
Conclusions: A large percentage of adults with congenital heart abnormalities show a poor level of knowledge about their heart condition. These observations suggest the importance of structured transitional programs, the impact of which will need to be validated in prospective studies.