Executive function deficits in congenital heart disease: why is intervention important?

Cardiol Young. 2015 Oct;25(7):1238-46. doi: 10.1017/S1047951115001134. Epub 2015 Jun 17.


It is widely recognised that children with congenital heart disease (CHD) are at high risk for neurodevelopmental impairments including attention deficit hyperactivity disorder and autism spectrum disorder symptoms. Executive function impairments are one of the most prominent neurodevelopmental features associated with CHD. These deficits can have widespread debilitating repercussions in children's neurocognitive, behavioural, and psycho-social development. There is a crucial gap in research regarding the efficacy of preventive or treatment strategies for these important cognitive morbidities. Executive functions are complex neurocognitive skills highly amenable to improvement. Evidence-based interventions have shown promising results in other paediatric populations, strongly suggesting that they might also benefit the growing population of children with CHD. In this review, we summarise the available data on executive function impairments in children and adolescents with CHD. We underline the important co-morbidity of executive dysfunction with other cognitive and psychiatric issues in CHD, which raises awareness of the crucial need to prevent or at least mitigate these deficits. Finally, we summarise future avenues for research in terms of interventions that may help reduce executive function impairments in youth with CHD.

Keywords: CHD; Executive function; cognitive interventions; neurodevelopment; working memory.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Attention Deficit Disorder with Hyperactivity / epidemiology
  • Autism Spectrum Disorder / epidemiology
  • Child
  • Comorbidity
  • Executive Function / physiology*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / complications*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / psychology*
  • Humans
  • Neuropsychological Tests