Beyond the first year after pediatric heart or heart-lung transplantation: Changes in cognitive function and behaviour

Pediatr Transplant. 2005 Apr;9(2):170-7. doi: 10.1111/j.1399-3046.2005.00265.x.


With the increasing use and improved survival rates of heart and lung transplantation as treatments for children with end-stage heart or lung disease, attention is focusing on the longer term psychological implications of these procedures. This paper focuses on the changes in cognitive development and behaviour in a group of 47 children who were seen 12 months and 2 yr after transplantation. There were 24 boys and 23 girls, mean age at transplantation was 8.3 yr (s.d. 5.3 yr), with a range of 0.3-15.1 yr. Assessments were made of developmental level, cognitive ability and problem behaviours, using previously validated measures, and comparisons were made with physically healthy children. For children under three and a half years of age there was a decrease over time in scores on all developmental parameters, with the change reaching significance on the scale assessing eye-hand coordination and on the overall IQ. Whilst all scores were within the normal range, they were at a significantly lower level than those of the healthy children. In contrast, there were no changes over time on any measures of cognitive or academic ability for older children, with correlations between 12 month and 2 yr scores being highly significant. The rate of behaviour problems at home at 12 months was 22%, compared with 34% at 2 yr post-transplant, which was higher than that found in the healthy children. Conversely, there was a drop in the prevalence of behaviour problems at school from 23% at 12 months to 9% at 2 yr. It is concluded that a significant minority of children and adolescents experience psychological difficulties 2 yr after transplant, with particular areas of concern focusing on development in the younger children and the occurrence of behaviour problems at home across the age-range.

MeSH terms

  • Behavior*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Cognition*
  • Female
  • Heart Transplantation* / psychology
  • Heart-Lung Transplantation* / psychology
  • Hospitalization
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Longitudinal Studies
  • Male
  • Postoperative Period
  • Quality of Life