Children’s of Alabama was recently named an accredited center of care by the Children’s Cardiomyopathy Foundation (CCF), a national nonprofit committed to improving the health outcomes and quality of life for children with cardiomyopathy.
“We’re glad to be able to participate,” said F. Bennett Pearce, M.D., outgoing medical director of the Pediatric Advanced Heart Failure and Transplant Program at Children’s of Alabama. “CCF promotes education and helps families connect and choose centers with experience in these kinds of patients.”
The Pediatric and Congenital Heart Center of Alabama at Children’s of Alabama is one of the largest pediatric cardiovascular programs in the Southeast. In 2018, its team of 250 dedicated professionals treated more than 230 patients with pediatric cardiomyopathy. The team includes surgeons, intensivists, cardiologists and many others, including nurses, social workers, child life specialists, genetic counselors, nutritionists, occupational and physical therapists, and chaplains.
“We have traditionally had very strong clinical abilities and success with treating a variety of these conditions,” Pearce said. “Over the 25 years that I’ve worked in the program, I feel we have been among the finest centers, but we have not been quite so active in getting the word out. That needs to change because we want to make families aware that there’s a good resource for them here.”
The CCF offers a plethora of educational and supportive programs for families, as well as a research grant program for basic, clinical, population/epidemiologic, or translational studies focused on primary pediatric cardiomyopathy.
Its accreditation program was established in 2017 to recognize excellence in diagnosing and treating pediatric cardiomyopathy and provide families with standardized center information to help them find an expert treatment center in their area. To date, 39 centers in the U.S. and Canada, including Children’s of Alabama, have been accredited.
The CCF has very strict criteria for accreditation. Centers must:
- Manage 30 or more cardiomyopathy patients up to age 18 annually or 60 pediatric cardiomyopathy patient visits a year.
- Have at least one pediatric cardiologist who treats patients with dilated, hypertrophic, restrictive arrhythmogenic and right ventricular or left ventricular non-compaction cardiomyopathy.
- Be part of a teaching hospital affiliated with a medical school.
- Offer the following:
- Prenatal or fetal echocardiography
- High quality imaging (echocardiogram, cardiac magnetic resonance imaging)
- Interventional cardiology (catheterization, endomyocardial biopsy)
- Pediatric cardiac electrophysiology
- Cardiac surgical services (septal myectomy, cardiac device implantation)
- Genetic testing and counseling
- Pediatric neurology
- Social work
- Child life services
- Centers must also have at least one of the following (Children’s of Alabama meets all four):
- A specialized clinic or program focused on pediatric cardiomyopathy or familial hypertrophic cardiomyopathy with a dedicated team of professionals.
- Involvement with the North American Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Registry, Pediatric Cardiomyopathy Repository or Pediatric Heart Transplant Study Group.
- Engagement in pediatric cardiomyopathy research.
- Advanced heart failure management and transplantation.
“We have everything needed to offer to this group of patients,” Pearce said. “And we want to make sure that when a family confronts this difficult diagnosis, they can easily find our program and be assured that it is a good resource.”