Brain Injury in Infants with Critical Congenital Heart Disease: Insights from Two Clinical Cohorts with Different Practice Approaches

J Pediatr. 2019 Dec:215:75-82.e2. doi: 10.1016/j.jpeds.2019.07.017. Epub 2019 Aug 23.


Objectives: To determine prevalence and risk factors for brain injury in infants with critical congenital heart disease (CHD) from 2 sites with different practice approaches who were scanned clinically.

Study design: Prospective, longitudinal cohort study (2016-2017) performed at Hospital for Sick Children Toronto (HSC) and Wilhelmina Children's Hospital Utrecht (WKZ), including 124 infants with cardiac surgery ≤60 days (HSC = 77; WKZ = 47). Magnetic resonance imaging was performed per clinical protocol, preoperatively (n = 100) and postoperatively (n = 120). Images were reviewed for multifocal (watershed, white matter injury) and focal ischemic injury (stroke, single white matter lesion).

Results: The prevalence of ischemic injury was 69% at HSC and 60% at WKZ (P = .20). Preoperative multifocal injury was associated with low cardiac output syndrome (OR, 4.6), which was equally present at HSC and WKZ (20% vs 28%; P = .38). Compared with WKZ, HSC had a higher prevalence of balloon-atrioseptostomy in transposition of the great arteries (83% vs 53%; P = .01) and more frequent preoperative focal injury (27% vs 6%; P = .06). Postoperatively, 30% of new multifocal injury could be attributed to postoperative low cardiac output syndrome, which was equally present at HSC and WKZ (38% vs 28%; P = .33). Postoperative focal injury was associated with intraoperative selective cerebral perfusion in CHD with arch obstruction at both sites (OR, 2.7). Compared with HSC, WKZ had more arch obstructions (62% vs 35%; P < .01) and a higher prevalence of new focal injury (36% vs 16%; P = .01).

Conclusions: Brain injury is common in clinical cohorts of infants with critical CHD and related to practice approaches. This study confirms that the high prevalence of brain injury in critical CHD is a clinical concern and does not simply reflect the inclusion criteria of published research studies.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study
  • Observational Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Brain / pathology*
  • Brain Injuries / epidemiology*
  • Brain Injuries / etiology
  • Cardiac Surgical Procedures / adverse effects*
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / complications*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery
  • Humans
  • Imaging, Three-Dimensional / methods*
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods*
  • Male
  • Netherlands / epidemiology
  • Ontario / epidemiology
  • Prevalence
  • Prognosis
  • Prospective Studies
  • Risk Assessment / methods*
  • Risk Factors

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