Altered myelination in youth born with congenital heart disease

Hum Brain Mapp. 2022 Aug 1;43(11):3545-3558. doi: 10.1002/hbm.25866. Epub 2022 Apr 12.


Brain injury and dysmaturation is common in fetuses and neonates with congenital heart disease (CHD) and is hypothesized to result in persistent myelination deficits. This study aimed to quantify and compare myelin content in vivo between youth born with CHD and healthy controls. Youth aged 16 to 24 years born with CHD and healthy age- and sex-matched controls underwent brain magnetic resonance imaging including multicomponent driven equilibrium single pulse observation of T1 and T2 (mcDESPOT). Average myelin water fraction (MWF) values for 33 white matter tracts, as well as a summary measure of average white matter MWF, the White Matter Myelination Index, were calculated and compared between groups. Tract-average MWF was lower throughout the corpus callosum and in many bilateral association tracts and left hemispheric projection tracts in youth with CHD (N = 44) as compared to controls (N = 45). The White Matter Myelination Index was also lower in the CHD group. As such, this study provides specific evidence of widespread myelination deficits in youth with CHD, likely representing a long-lasting consequence of early-life brain dysmaturation in this population. This deficient myelination may underlie the frequent neurodevelopmental impairments experienced by CHD survivors and could eventually serve as a biomarker of neuropsychological function.

Keywords: congenital heart disease; myelination; neurodevelopment; quantitative magnetic resonance imaging.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Brain / diagnostic imaging
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / diagnostic imaging
  • Humans
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging / methods
  • Myelin Sheath
  • White Matter* / diagnostic imaging
  • White Matter* / pathology