With the recent dramatic decline in mortality rates of infants undergoing open-heart surgery (OHS), there is growing concern regarding neurodevelopmental sequelae. Outcome studies have primarily focused on delineating developmental impairments; however, the impact on function and family burden has not been investigated. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of functional limitations and burden of care of young children with congenital heart defects (CHD) after OHS.
Study design: One hundred thirty-one eligible infants with CHD undergoing their first OHS were recruited prospectively. Patients were assessed pre- and postoperatively, and again 12 to 18 months after surgery. Functional assessments included the WeeFIM (Functional Independence Measure) and the Vineland Adaptive Behavior Scale.
Results: For the WeeFIM, mean quotients were 84.3 +/- 23.8 (self-care), 77.2 +/- 30.0 (mobility), and 92.4 +/- 27.8 (cognition), with an overall quotient of 83.8 +/- 23.4. Only 21% of the cohort was functioning within their expected age range. Moderate disability was noted in 37%, while only 6% demonstrated a severe disability. For the Vineland scale, mean score for daily living skills was 84.4 +/- 17.6, and 80.3 +/- 15.9 for socialization. Functional difficulties in daily living skills were documented in 40%, whereas >1/2 had poor socialization skills. Factors enhancing risk for functional disabilities included perioperative neurodevelopmental status, microcephaly, length of deep hypothermic circulatory arrest, length of stay in the intensive care unit, age at surgery, and maternal education.
Conclusions: The high prevalence of functional limitations and dependence in activities of daily living is currently underappreciated in the clinical setting, and deserves additional attention by pediatricians and developmental specialists.