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Aorta and Vascular Program Treats Kids with Rare Blood Vessel Diseases

The Aorta and Vascular Program at Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology follows children and young adults with blood vessel diseases, which can involve vessels that are too large, too small or twisted. The program helps coordinate multidisciplinary patient care to meet the varied healthcare needs experienced by patients with blood vessel diseases such as Loeys-Dietz, Turner and Marfan syndromes.

Director of the Aorta and Vascular Program Glen Iannucci, MD, said his team offers close monitoring, medical management, educational support and surgical intervention, if needed. They also facilitate multidisciplinary coordination of care with genetics, ophthalmology, orthopedics and pulmonary physicians. The program consists of three pediatric cardiologists, including Dr. Denver Sallee, who has additional expertise in cardiac imaging, and Dr. Stephanie Wechsler, who is dual-boarded in genetics and pediatric cardiology. Two genetic counselors, Erin Demo and Linda Knight, and nurse practitioner Heather Jordan round out the team providing excellent patient care and coordination.

Patients with Marfan syndrome, which occurs in 1 out of 5,000 people, are treated in the Aorta and Vascular Program since the condition has high rates of cardiac involvement. Kids with Marfan syndrome are typically tall in stature with long, slender fingers, chest wall deformities and scoliosis. Children’s has one of the largest and oldest programs in the Southeast that has been continually recognized by the Marfan Foundation.

The team also takes care of patients with bicuspid aortic valve disease those who have had aortic surgery, among other types of conditions and diagnoses.

“The good news in the current era is that for those we do diagnose, these conditions are treatable, and the rates of positive outcomes are good throughout childhood,” Dr. Iannucci said. “We also refer families to other specialists as needed to perform surveillance imaging and track problems before the patient presents with significant symptoms.”

Many of the conditions treated in the Aorta and Vascular Program are heritable, meaning that they can be passed on from parent to child. The program’s genetic counselors can determine if screening of parents or siblings is warranted and facilitate genetic testing if needed. A genetic counselor can help families understand the treatment options, risks and implications of a heritable aortic condition.

“We typically have more than 700 patient encounters each year, and our program has continued to grow since its 2012 inception,” Dr. Iannucci said. “For conditions that may need surgery, our aortic surgery program has excellent outcomes that we share with the community on our website to aid in transparency when selecting a surgical program.”

Iannucci said the Aorta and Vascular program’s team is actively involved in the aortic disease community, and they have served as medical chairs for The Marfan Foundation’s Walk for Victory in Atlanta since its inception. They also help facilitate the foundation’s Camp Victory and contribute to aortic disease research.

For more information about Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta Cardiology and our pediatric cardiology specialists, click here.

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