Neurocognitive development and behaviour in school-aged children after surgery for univentricular or biventricular congenital heart disease

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2016 Jan;49(1):167-74. doi: 10.1093/ejcts/ezv029. Epub 2015 Feb 17.


Objectives: To assess the long-term neuropsychological and behavioural profile of school-aged children who were treated for univentricular heart (UVH) conditions or biventricular heart defect (BiVH) in infancy in a cross-sectional study design.

Methods: Sixty-three patients, 17 UVH (13 males, 4 females) and 46 BiVH (19 males, 27 females), were assessed at a mean age of 9.1 years (2.2 years) with an intelligence and neuropsychological test battery. Results were compared between subgroups (UVH, BiVH and a healthy control group). Associations between cognitive outcome, medical and socio-demographic factors were explored. Parents completed the Child Behavior Checklist (CBCL).

Results: Mean intelligence and neuropsychological scores were found within normal ranges for all diagnostic groups. Significant differences between UVH patients and controls emerged on auditory sustained and alternating attention, fine motor skills, visuospatial information processing, and to a lesser extent, memory performance. Parents of UVH patients reported more externalizing problems and school problems. Patient groups did not differ on neuropsychological outcome measures, nor on behavioural problems as rated by parents.

Conclusions: After Fontan completion, patients at school age display intelligence scores within normal population-based ranges. However, they were found at risk for subtle shortcomings in attention, fine motor skills, visuospatial information processing and externalizing behaviour problems. Considerations pertaining to neurobehavioural outcome in school-aged children are discussed.

Keywords: Congenital heart defect; Hypoplastic left heart; Neurodevelopmental outcome; Neuropsychology; Tricuspid atresia.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Case-Control Studies
  • Child
  • Child Behavior Disorders / diagnosis
  • Child Behavior Disorders / etiology*
  • Cross-Sectional Studies
  • Developmental Disabilities / diagnosis
  • Developmental Disabilities / etiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / complications
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / psychology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Humans
  • Intelligence Tests
  • Male
  • Neuropsychological Tests
  • Postoperative Complications* / diagnosis
  • Retrospective Studies