Dr. Charles Fraser, Jr, is known world-wide for healing the tiniest hearts affected by congenital heart disease. He joined UT Health Austin to help establish and build a new, focused congenital heart surgery unit for babies, children and adults in partnership with Dell Children’s Medical Center of Central Texas. Dr. Fraser, a University of Texas at Austin alum, spoke with KXAN’s Gigi Barnett about his plans to build the Texas Center for Pediatrics and Congenital Heart Disease in Austin and what that means for children and families here and throughout the State.
What is Congenital Heart Disease?
Congenital heart disease means a person is born with a structural problem with the heart. Something went wrong in gestation and the baby was born with the heart malformed in someway. It can be very serious, like part of the heart is missing, or there are holes in the heart, or it can be something minor which affects that person’s quality of life. An adult may have congenital heart disease for a few reason:
- They could have been born with it and not ever known about it until diagnosis as an adult, or
- Children who may not have survived (in the past) with the condition are now surviving into adulthood and need ongoing care.
Congenital Heart Disease (CHD) Statistics
- CHDs are the most common types of birth defects, and babies born with these conditions are living longer and healthier lives;
- CHDs affect nearly 1% of―or about 40,000―births per year in the United States;
- About 25% of babies with a CHD have a critical CHD. Infants with critical CHDs generally need surgery or other procedures in their first year of life;
- Researchers estimate that about 1 million U.S. children and about 1.4 million U.S. adults were living with CHDs.
Why build this program in Austin?
The partnership with UT Health Austin and Dell Children’s Medical Center was important in Dr. Fraser’s decision to bring the program to Austin. Dr. Fraser states, “It’s an incredible convergence of opportunity between The University of Texas system, a brand new medical school, number one state university (in Dr. Fraser’s opinion), Dell Children’s Medical Center and Ascension/Seton system. All these elements in this vibrant city make for a unique platform to build a world-class program.” The partnership includes physicians who are UT Health Austin doctors who will see patients and perform surgery at Dell Children’s. The goal of the Center is trifold - to put the patient at the center of care, educate tomorrow’s leaders and conduct research that changes the field of congenital heart disease.
Dr. Fraser explains further, that Austin has had a small congenital heart program, but the patients and families with complex problems by and large had to leave Austin to go somewhere else to receive the type of care they really needed. Families had to travel to other cities in the state and other cities in the country.
If a child has congenital heart disease, what are the steps to see a specialist?
Typically, the pediatrician, who made the diagnosis, would then make a referral to Dr. Fraser and the Center’s team. Dr. Fraser and his team, after a thorough physical examination and review of the patient’s medical history, would then explain the condition to the parents, or patient, and what the treatment plan would be, which sometimes may include surgery.