Background: Neurodevelopmental outcome after neonatal arterial switch operation for complete transposition of the great arteries is an important topic needing prospective assessment.
Methods: A group of 33 unselected children (3.0 to 4.6 years) operated on as neonates with combined deep hypothermic circulatory arrest and low flow cardiopulmonary bypass and a control group of 32 age-matched healthy children (3.0 to 4.8 years) underwent evaluation of socioeconomic and clinical neurological status and a standardized test comprising all areas of child development. Results of patients were related to those of the control group, to population norms, and to preoperative, perioperative, and postoperative cerebral risk factors.
Results: Clinical neurological status was normal in 26 patients (78.8%) and reduced in 7 (21.2%). Complete developmental score and the subscores for motor function, visual perception, learning and memory, cognitive function, language, and socioemotional functions were not different compared to population norms. Compared to the patients, the children of the control group scored higher on tests of complete development, cognition, and language, but also on socioeconomic status. Complete developmental score and the scores for motor, cognitive, and language functions were weakly inversely related to the duration of circulatory arrest, but not to the duration of bypass. Cerebral risk factors such as serum levels of the neuron-specific enolase, perinatal acidosis, perinatal asphyxia, peri- and postoperative cardiocirculatory insufficiency, or clinical seizures were not correlated to the test results.
Conclusions: Neonatal arterial switch operation with combined circulatory arrest and low flow bypass is associated with neurological impairment, but not with reduced development as assessed by formal testing of motor, cognitive, language, and behavioral functions. Perioperative serum level of the neuron-specific enolase is not a valid marker for later developmental impairment.