Pulmonary complications of congenital heart disease

Paediatr Respir Rev. 2012 Mar;13(1):10-5. doi: 10.1016/j.prrv.2011.01.007. Epub 2011 Mar 5.


Cardiac and pulmonary pathophysiologies are closely interdependent, which makes the management of patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) all the more complex. Pulmonary complications of CHD can be structural due to compression causing airway malacia or atelectasis of the lung. Surgical repair of CHD can also result in structural trauma to the respiratory system, e.g., chylothorax, subglottic stenosis, or diaphragmatic paralysis. Disruption of the Starling forces in the pulmonary vascular system in certain types of CHD lead to alveolar-capillary membrane damage and pulmonary oedema. This in turn results in poorly compliant lungs with a restrictive lung function pattern that can deteriorate to cause hypoxemia. The circulation post single ventricle palliative surgery (the so called "Fontan circulation") poses a unique spectrum of pulmonary pathophysiology with restrictive lung function and a low pulmonary blood flow state that predisposes to thromboembolic complications and plastic bronchitis. As the population of patients surviving post CHD repair increases, the incidence of pulmonary complications has also increased and presents a unique cohort in both the paediatric and adult clinics.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Child
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / complications*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Postoperative Complications*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / etiology*
  • Respiratory Tract Diseases / physiopathology*