Background: Hypothermic circulatory arrest is a widely used support technique during heart surgery in infants, but its effects on neurologic outcome have been controversial. An alternative method, low-flow cardiopulmonary bypass, maintains continuous cerebral circulation but may increase exposure to known pump-related sources of brain injury, such as embolism or inadequate cerebral perfusion.
Methods: We compared the incidence of perioperative brain injury after deep hypothermia and support consisting predominantly of total circulatory arrest with the incidence after deep hypothermia and support consisting predominantly of low-flow cardiopulmonary bypass in a randomized, single-center trial. The criteria for eligibility included a diagnosis of transposition of the great arteries with an intact ventricular septum or a ventricular septal defect and a planned arterial-switch operation before the age of three months.
Results: Of 171 patients with D-transposition of the great arteries, 129 (66 of whom were assigned to circulatory arrest and 63 to low-flow bypass) had an intact ventricular septum, and 42 (21 assigned to circulatory arrest and 21 to low-flow bypass) had a ventricular septal defect. After adjustment for diagnosis, assignment to circulatory arrest as compared with low-flow bypass was associated with a higher risk of clinical seizures (odds ratio, 11.4; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.4 to 93.0), a tendency to a higher risk of ictal activity on continuous electroencephalographic (EEG) monitoring during the first 48 hours after surgery (odds ratio, 2.5; 95 percent confidence interval, 1.0 to 6.4), a longer recovery time to the first reappearance of EEG activity (only in the group with an intact ventricular septum, P < 0.001), and greater release of the brain isoenzyme of creatine kinase in the first 6 hours after surgery (P = 0.046). Analyses comparing durations of circulatory arrest produced results similar to those of analyses comparing treatments.
Conclusions: In heart surgery in infants, a strategy consisting predominantly of circulatory arrest is associated with greater central nervous system perturbation in the early postoperative period than a strategy consisting predominantly of low-flow cardiopulmonary bypass. Assessment of the effect of these findings on later outcomes awaits follow-up of this cohort.