Background: Classification of the overall spectrum of congenital heart defects (CHD) has always been challenging, in part because of the diversity of the cardiac phenotypes, but also because of the oft-complex associations. The purpose of our study was to establish a comprehensive and easy-to-use classification of CHD for clinical and epidemiological studies based on the long list of the International Paediatric and Congenital Cardiac Code (IPCCC).
Methods: We coded each individual malformation using six-digit codes from the long list of IPCCC. We then regrouped all lesions into 10 categories and 23 subcategories according to a multi-dimensional approach encompassing anatomic, diagnostic and therapeutic criteria. This anatomic and clinical classification of congenital heart disease (ACC-CHD) was then applied to data acquired from a population-based cohort of patients with CHD in France, made up of 2867 cases (82% live births, 1.8% stillbirths and 16.2% pregnancy terminations).
Results: The majority of cases (79.5%) could be identified with a single IPCCC code. The category "Heterotaxy, including isomerism and mirror-imagery" was the only one that typically required more than one code for identification of cases. The two largest categories were "ventricular septal defects" (52%) and "anomalies of the outflow tracts and arterial valves" (20% of cases).
Conclusion: Our proposed classification is not new, but rather a regrouping of the known spectrum of CHD into a manageable number of categories based on anatomic and clinical criteria. The classification is designed to use the code numbers of the long list of IPCCC but can accommodate ICD-10 codes. Its exhaustiveness, simplicity, and anatomic basis make it useful for clinical and epidemiologic studies, including those aimed at assessment of risk factors and outcomes.