Impact of respiratory syncytial virus infection on surgery for congenital heart disease: postoperative course and outcome

Crit Care Med. 1999 Sep;27(9):1974-81. doi: 10.1097/00003246-199909000-00042.


Objectives: a) To describe the postoperative course and outcome of cardiac surgery in children with recent respiratory syncytial virus (RSV) infection; and b) to evaluate whether timing of surgery has any impact on the outcome.

Design: Retrospective case series.

Setting: Intensive care unit and medical and surgical wards of a teaching pediatric hospital.

Patients: Twenty-five children (aged 25 days to 3.5 yrs; median, 4 months) with congenital heart disease who had cardiac surgery within 6 months after RSV infection.

Interventions: None.

Measurements and main results: We reviewed the clinical course and outcome of all patients. The cardiac diagnoses included ventricular septal defect (n = 11), tetralogy of Fallot (n = 3), atrioventricular canal (n = 3), and others (n = 8). Thirteen patients had surgery during the same admission as RSV infection (group I), and 12 patients had surgery electively after being discharged to home after RSV infection (group II). Two patients in group I died; both of these patients had undergone total repair of tetralogy of Fallot within 2 wks after admission for RSV infection. Postoperative complications in group I patients included pulmonary hypertension (n = 5), adult respiratory distress syndrome (n = 1), tracheal stenosis (n = 1), left ventricular dysfunction (n = 1), pericardial effusion (n = 1), secondary bacterial or fungal infection (n = 7), and deep venous thrombosis (n = 1). Of all group I patients, the ones who were operated on early appeared to be at higher risk for complications, especially for postoperative pulmonary hypertension. No patient in group II died, and only two patients had minor complications (one had reactive airway disease, and the other had a transient superior vena cava syndrome after a bidirectional Glenn operation).

Conclusions: Cardiac surgery performed during the symptomatic period of RSV infection is associated with a high risk of postoperative complications, especially postoperative pulmonary hypertension. These complications appeared to be more frequent and of greater severity in patients who had earlier surgery compared with those who had later surgery. More studies are needed regarding the proper timing of cardiac surgery in patients with congenital heart disease and RSV infection.

MeSH terms

  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures* / methods
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures* / mortality
  • Child, Preschool
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / virology*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / etiology
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Postoperative Complications / epidemiology
  • Respiration, Artificial / statistics & numerical data
  • Respiratory Syncytial Virus Infections / complications*
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome
  • United States / epidemiology