Background and aims: Several years ago, one of us described the difference in attitude to patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome in the United States of America and Europe as similar to that between Mars and Venus. Uncertainty remains with regard to the long-term prognosis for patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome. This prognosis may be considered in terms of survival, functional performance, including exercise capacity and neurodevelopment, as well as psychosocial effects on the patient, family, and siblings. Counselling parents where either an antenatal or postnatal diagnosis of hypoplastic left heart syndrome has been made requires practitioners to give information on these prognostic aspects. We wanted to see how attitudes among European surgeons have changed over the last few years.
Methods: We performed a review of recent European data for hypoplastic left heart syndrome and conducted a survey among surgeons in major European centres to ascertain key aspects of their attitudes to the management of patients with hypoplastic left heart syndrome and how they counsel parents.
Results and conclusions: As of January, 2011, 2392 citations in the PubMed database were available for the search string "hypoplastic left heart". The majority of these were from the centres from the United States of America and Europe. The European Association for Cardio-Thoracic Surgery Congenital Heart Surgery Database shows an annual increase in the number of Norwood (Stage I) operations for hypoplastic left heart syndrome from 2003 to 2009, with a corresponding reduction in mortality. European rates of antenatal detection vary widely between centres, as do the rates of termination for a prenatal diagnosis of hypoplastic left heart syndrome. We observed a wide variation in the estimates of surgeons for survival and quality of life for surgical palliation of hypoplastic left heart syndrome, as well as in their estimates for actual rates of termination of pregnancy in their centres. Further, there was marked inconsistency in the information given to parents as part of the process of counselling. These issues remain to be resolved if parents are to make a fully informed decision for their child.