Background: Abnormalities on magnetic resonance imaging scans are common both before and after surgery for congenital heart disease in early infancy. The aim of this study was to prospectively investigate the nature, timing, and consequences of brain injury on magnetic resonance imaging in a cohort of young infants undergoing surgery for congenital heart disease both with and without cardiopulmonary bypass.
Methods and results: A total of 153 infants undergoing surgery for congenital heart disease at <8 weeks of age underwent serial magnetic resonance imaging scans before and after surgery and at 3 months of age, as well as neurodevelopmental assessment at 2 years of age. White matter injury (WMI) was the commonest type of injury both before and after surgery. It occurred in 20% of infants before surgery and was associated with a less mature brain. New WMI after surgery was present in 44% of infants and at similar rates after surgery with or without cardiopulmonary bypass. The most important association was diagnostic group (P<0.001). In infants having arch reconstruction, the use and duration of circulatory arrest were significantly associated with new WMI. New WMI was also associated with the duration of cardiopulmonary bypass, postoperative lactate level, brain maturity, and WMI before surgery. Brain immaturity but not brain injury was associated with impaired neurodevelopment at 2 years of age.
Conclusions: New WMI is common after surgery for congenital heart disease and occurs at the same rate in infants undergoing surgery with and without cardiopulmonary bypass. New WMI is associated with diagnostic group and, in infants undergoing arch surgery, the use of circulatory arrest.