Background: The objective was to determine the timing and mechanism of brain injury using preoperative and postoperative magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) and three-dimensional MR spectroscopic imaging (MRSI) in newborns with transposition of the great arteries (TGA) repaired with full-flow cardiopulmonary bypass.
Methods: Ten term newborns with TGA undergoing an arterial switch operation were studied with MRI, MRSI, and neurologic examination preoperatively and postoperatively at a median of 5 days (2 to 9 days) and 19 days (14 to 26 days) of age, respectively. Five term historical controls were studied at a median of 4 days (3 to 9 days). Lactate/choline (marker of cerebral oxidative metabolism) and N-acetylaspartate (NAA)/choline (marker of cerebral metabolism and density) were measured bilaterally from the basal ganglia, thalamus, and corticospinal tracts.
Results: Four TGA newborns had brain injury on the preoperative MRI. The only new lesion detected on the postoperative study was a focal white matter lesion in one newborn with a normal preoperative MRI. The MRSI of age-adjusted lactate/choline was quantitatively higher in newborns with TGA compared with those without heart disease (p < 0.0001), even in newborns without MRI evidence of preoperative brain injury. Lactate/choline decreased after surgery but remained elevated compared with controls. In newborns with TGA, those with preoperative brain injury on MRI had lower NAA/choline globally (p = 0.04) than those with normal preoperative MRI. Five newborns had a decline in NAA/choline from the preoperative to postoperative studies.
Conclusions: Abnormal brain metabolism and injury was observed preoperatively in newborns with TGA. Brain injury is not solely related to the operative course.