Objectives: The purpose of this study was to assess the health-related quality of life of patients who underwent surgical closure of a ventricular septal defect at a young age between 1968 and 1980.
Background: Since the beginning of open heart surgery for congenital cardiac malformations, the surgical techniques have continually improved. As a result, even infants have become eligible for surgical repair. Long-term follow-up data are not available on the health-related quality of life of nonselected patients after surgical repair at a young age. We therefore conducted a follow-up study of 176 infants and children consecutively operated on in one institution between 1968 and 1980.
Methods: Patients who were alive and could be traced through the offices of local registrars received an invitation to participate in the follow-up study, consisting of an interview, physical examination, echocardiography, exercise testing and standard 12-lead and 24-h electrocardiography.
Results: One hundred nine patients (78% of those eligible for follow-up) participated. The mean interval after operation (+/- SD) was 14.5 +/- 2.6 years. Eighty-four percent of the patients assessed their health as good or very good, and 89% had been free of any medical or surgical intervention since the operation. At physical examination all patients were in good health. Their mean exercise capacity was 100 +/- 17% (range 56% to 141%) of predicted values; 84% of the patients had a normal exercise capacity. Echocardiography demonstrated a small residual ventricular septal defect in seven patients (6%). There were no signs of pulmonary hypertension. No patient had symptomatic arrhythmias.
Conclusions: Long-term results of surgical closure of ventricular septal defect in infancy and childhood are good. Pulmonary hypertension is absent. Personal health assessment is comparable to that of the normal population, as is exercise capacity, even though many patients have anatomic, hemodynamic or electrophysiologic sequelae.