by Annette Pinder

Congenital heart defects are problems with the heart’s structure that are present at birth. They can involve the interior walls of the heart, the valves inside the heart, and the arteries and veins that carry blood to the heart or the body.

According to the National Institutes of Health (NIH), congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting eight of every 1,000 newborns. More than 35,000 babies in the United States are born with congenital heart defects. Many are simple conditions that do not require treatment, or are easily fixed. However, some babies born with complex congenital heart defects require special medical care soon after birth and lifelong monitoring throughout adulthood. More than one million adults in the U.S. are living with congenital heart defects.

Laura Ford-Mukkamala, D.O., of Great Lakes Cardiovascular, who has advanced training in echocardiography, says, “The diagnosis and treatment of complex heart defects has greatly improved over the past few decades, and nearly all children born with complex heart defects survive to adulthood, living active, productive lives.” However, monitoring these patients requires a physician who takes care of this population of cardiac patients, and who is familiar with the long-term issues that arise well after their abnormality was repaired.”

Sometimes patients with more complex issues should be followed by both a pediatric cardiologist and an adult cardiologist with congenital experience who can collaboratively take care of these patients as they age. When these situations arise, Dr. Ford-Mukkamala works closely with her colleagues from Pediatric Cardiology Associates of WNY in Buffalo. This includes Dr. Joseph Orie, Dr. Glenn Leonard, Dr. Rebecca Pratt, and Dr. Megan McGreevy-Barnhart. These physicians have extensive experience in fetal echocardiography, enabling them to also diagnose cardiac defects in the unborn child, as well as in expectant mothers. In addition, their experience continues to be vital in following those with complex conditions.

One area which is deficient in Buffalo, is having a pediatric cardiac surgeon, which is why Dr. Ford-Mukkamala and her pediatric cardiology colleagues work with Dr. George M. Alfieris, of Strong Memorial Hospital Children’s Heart Center. He is the only pediatric cardiac surgeon in the Western New York region.

“Often, it takes more than one physician to provide the comprehensive care that many of our patients who have congenital heart disease require. The good news is that we are helping these people lead healthy, active, and fulfilling lives into adulthood. And we are working together as a team in order to make that possible,” said Dr. Ford-Mukkamala.

Dr. Laura Ford-Mukkamala, D.O is board certified in cardiovascular diseases, with advanced training in echo and nuclear cardiology. In addition to adult congenital heart disease, Dr. Ford-Mukkamala is interested in heart failure and women and heart disease. She has convenient office locations at Buffalo General Medical Center, as well as in Amherst and Orchard Park. To make an appointment call 716-710-8266. To learn more visit