Objective: We report 16 infants with complete congenital heart block (CHB) who developed late-onset dilated cardiomyopathy despite early institution of cardiac pacing.
Background: Isolated CHB has an excellent prognosis following pacemaker implantation. Most early deaths result from delayed initiation of pacing therapy or hemodynamic abnormalities associated with congenital heart defects.
Methods: A multi-institutional study was performed to identify common clinical features and possible risk factors associated with late-onset dilated cardiomyopathy in patients born with congenital CHB.
Results: Congenital heart block was diagnosed in utero in 12 patients and at birth in four patients. Ten of 16 patients had serologic findings consistent with neonatal lupus syndrome (NLS). A pericardial effusion was evident on fetal ultrasound in six patients. In utero determination of left ventricular (LV) function was normal in all. Following birth, one infant exhibited a rash consistent with NLS and two had elevated hepatic transaminases and transient thrombocytopenia. In the early postnatal period, LV function was normal in 15 patients (shortening fraction [SF] = 34 +/- 7%) and was decreased in one (SF = 20%). A cardiac pacemaker was implanted during the first two weeks of life in 15 patients and at seven months in one patient. Left ventricular function significantly decreased during follow-up (14 days to 9.3 years, SF = 9% +/- 5%). Twelve of 16 patients developed congestive heart failure before age 24 months. Myocardial biopsy revealed hypertrophy in 11 patients, interstitial fibrosis in 11 patients, and myocyte degeneration in two patients. Clinical status during follow-up was guarded: four patients died from congestive heart failure; seven required cardiac transplantation; one was awaiting cardiac transplantation; and four exhibited recovery of SF (31 +/- 2%).
Conclusions: Despite early institution of cardiac pacing, some infants with CHB develop LV cardiomyopathy. Patients with CHB require close follow-up not only of their cardiac rate and rhythm, but also ventricular function.