Approximately 30,000 babies are born each year in the United States with a congenital heart defect — almost one percent of births. Dr. Friedman treats children and adults with these conditions and stresses the importance of a continuum of care for these individuals. He spoke with Kids First about his philosophy of care.
What drew you to the field of cardiology?
I grew up during the time the first heart transplant took place , so I’ve long been interested in the heart and heart disease. In medical school, I did a rotation in pediatric cardiology and fell in love. I also did an advanced fellowship in clinical cardiac electrophysiology after my fellowship in pediatric cardiology.
What primary concerns do you have for your patients as they grow?
Because congenital heart disease can only be managed rather than completely repaired, I always try to help my patients remember they need to be seen by a cardiologist throughout their lives. In addition to being at risk for typical cardiac diseases, many patients have scar tissue from surgeries that puts them at risk for arrhythmias, or abnormal heart rhythms. This is actually how I became interested in adult congenital patients — as an electrophysiologist, I began taking care of our patients as they transitioned from adolescence into adulthood, because at the time there weren’t adult cardiologists who specialized in addressing those kinds of problems.
How has treatment for congenital heart disease changed over the years?
Surgical methods have evolved, as has post-surgical recovery philosophy. We used to encourage post-surgical children and adolescents to lead a more sedentary lifestyle, but we’ve learned that getting kids more active is actually the healthier course for them in the long run. Regarding technology, pacemakers are smaller and allow patients to have a more normal activity level. We can also utilize stents to open large vessels without major surgery. It’s an exciting time.
Because you treat pediatric and adult patients, how do you view your overall role?
I try to give patients as much time as they need when they see me, to explain their conditions and their options, and to answer any questions they have. My primary role is to teach patients about their heart disease and guide them toward the best options for managing it.
Read the spring 2016 issue of Kids First.