Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth
defect in the United States, affecting nearly 1% (about 40,000) births per year.
Most are diagnosed early in pregnancy, leaving parents months to obsessively
worry over their baby’s fate. But at the UAB Fetal Cardiac Diagnosis and Care
Clinic, a collaboration between the University of Alabama at Birmingham and
Children’s of Alabama, families can learn early on in their pregnancy what to
expect prenatally, during delivery and in the postnatal period from a team of
specialized physicians focused on their baby’s specific needs.
“Families get hit with the news that their baby has heart disease and it’s like a body blow,” said Children’s cardiologist Robb Romp, M.D. “We can demystify some of the scariness,” he said.
Clinic participants include pediatric cardiologists, cardiothoracic surgeons, maternal-fetal medicine specialists and a geneticist. “It is one of the quintessential multidisciplinary programs we run,” Romp said. “The goal is to recognize what the problems are prenatally and then ensure all the necessary resources are in place to care for the baby after birth.”
The half-day clinic meets monthly with between three to five families, about 50 a year, whose babies are known to have complex congenital heart disease. Patients come from throughout Alabama and surrounding states.
The clinic “helps families understand how many different providers are assisting in the care of their baby and that we are all working collaboratively,” Romp said. It also provides a very real perspective on how the team makes decisions, because the clinicians talk through the case with the family, he said. For instance, the issues the obstetrician focuses on may be different from those of the cardiologist. “The needs of both patients, mother and baby, need to be balanced to ensure both do well during and after the pregnancy,” he said.
The team’s nurse practitioner, Laura Brasseale, coordinates all follow-up meetings and ensures the family tours areas of the hospital where their baby may require care.
Brian Casey, M.D., who directs the Division of Maternal-Fetal Medicine at UAB,spent 23 years at the University of Texas Southwestern in Dallas before moving to UAB in 2018. “After my arrival here, I was immediately impressed with this scheduled monthly meeting between the pediatric cardiologists and the Maternal-Fetal Medicine group at UAB,” he said. “This extraordinary collaboration allows for early discussions of prenatal treatment and delivery planning in order to optimize the baby’s outcome and provides state-of-the-art care at a very high level for our patients.”
Fetal Diagnosis and Care
Learn more about the UAB Fetal Diagnosis and Care Clinic, a collaboration between the University of Alabama at Birmingham and Children’s of Alabama.