Once upon a time — not so very long ago — there were few doctors outside the ranks of pediatricians who treated adults with cystic fibrosis, Down syndrome or spina bifida. That’s because there were few adult patients with those congenital conditions. Most died in childhood or in their teen years. Very few survived to adulthood.

That has changed. Advances in science and medicine have led to dramatic increases in life span for patients with these conditions. Within the past few years, the University of Alabama at Birmingham has opened adult clinics for cystic fibrosis and Down syndrome. The most recent adult-transition clinic is for adult patients with spina bifida.

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