New breakthroughs for ‘blue baby syndrome'

New breakthroughs to treat congenital heart defects, also known as “blue baby syndrome,” mean fewer people need heart transplants now.

Decades ago, only 15 to 20 percent of babies born with heart defects survived to adulthood.

Now, it's 90 percent.

Karla Manley went 33 years without knowing she was born with a congenital heart defect.

"It was a shock. It really was," Manley said.

Doctors originally told Manley, an IT programmer at Jacksonville's Mayo Clinic, she needed a heart transplant.

After eight years of testing, the  Mayo Clinic's Dr. Naser Ammash told her there was another option: surgically replacing her valve with a mechanical valve instead.

"Once I had the surgery, it was like 'Holy moly, there's a whole bunch of things I can do now that I never was able to do,'" Manley said.

Dr. Ammash said fewer people need transplants now because innovations in medicine mean doctors can perform more complex surgeries without major complications.

He also says more people are surviving thanks to better medication and earlier intervention.

"The biggest misconception is there is nothing to be done if you are born with a complex heart defect, which is absolutely false," Dr. Ammash said.

Dr. Ammash said it's not uncommon for many people to grow into adulthood without knowing they were born with a heart defect. He said the best way to find out is to get an echo cardiogram, which is an ultrasound for your heart.