Dr. Joseph K. Perloff, a retired UCLA cardiologist who helped establish the study of adult congenital heart disease and became the founding director of one of the first clinics dedicated to its treatment, died Sunday at his home in Los Angeles. He was 89 and had complications from coronary artery disease, according to his daughter, Carey Perloff.
In the 1970s, Perloff realized that medical advances were extending the life expectancy of patients who were born with cardiac heart defects. Instead of dying in childhood, many patients were living into adulthood. But pediatric cardiologists didn't understand the adult heart well, and adult cardiologists had difficulty diagnosing complications that developed from the specialized surgery performed on young patients. Perloff began training new specialists at UCLA.
"These are complex patients, and they are not going to thrive if they don't see specialists," he recalled in a 2003 Los Angeles Times article. "My goal is to create the next generation of cardiologists to take care of them."
The Ahmanson/UCLA Adult Congenital Heart Disease Center was founded in 1980, with Perloff as its first director.
Today, there are more than 120 clinics in the U.S. and Canada focused on treating adult congenital heart disease, according to the Adult Congenital Heart Assn.
Joseph Kayle Perloff was born Dec. 21, 1924, in New Orleans. He received his bachelor's degree from Tulane University in 1945 and his medical degree from Louisiana State University in 1951. He was an intern and resident at Mt. Sinai Hospital in New York, then a Fulbright fellow at the Institute of Cardiology in London. He taught at Georgetown University and the University of Pennsylvania before arriving at UCLA in 1977.
Perloff wrote several textbooks, including editions of "Clinical Recognition of Congenital Heart Disease," "Congenital Heart Disease in Adults" and "Physical Examination of the Heart and Circulation." He retired from UCLA as Streisand/American Heart Assn. professor of medicine and pediatrics.
He is survived by his wife of 61 years, Marjorie Perloff, a literary critic and poetry scholar at Stanford and USC; daughters Nancy and Carey; and three grandchildren.