Cerebrovascular events in adult patients with cyanotic congenital heart disease

J Am Coll Cardiol. 1996 Sep;28(3):768-72. doi: 10.1016/0735-1097(96)00196-9.


Objectives: We sought to determine the frequency of spontaneous cerebrovascular events in adult patients with cyanotic congenital heart disease and to evaluate any contributing factors.

Background: Cerebrovascular events are a serious complication of cyanotic congenital heart disease in infants and children but are said to be uncommon in adults.

Methods: Between 1988 and 1995, 162 patients with cyanotic congenital heart disease (mean age 37 years, range 19 to 70) were retrospectively evaluated for any well documented cerebrovascular events that occurred at > or = 18 years of age. Events related to procedures, endocarditis or brain abscess were excluded.

Results: Twenty-two patients (13.6%) had 29 cerebrovascular events (1/100 patient-years). There was no significant difference between those with and without a cerebrovascular event in terms of age, smoking history, degree of erythrocytosis, ejection fraction or use of aspirin or warfarin (Coumadin). Patients who had a cerebrovascular event had a significantly increased tendency to develop hypertension, atrial fibrillation, microcytosis (mean corpuscular volume < 82) and history of phlebotomy (p < 0.05). Even when patients with hypertension or atrial fibrillation were excluded, there was an increased risk of cerebrovascular events associated with microcytosis (p < 0.01).

Conclusions: Adults with cyanotic congenital heart disease are at risk of having cerebrovascular events. This risk is increased in the presence of hypertension, atrial fibrillation, history of phlebotomy and microcytosis, the latter condition having the strongest significance (p < 0.005). This finding leads us to endorse a more conservative approach toward phlebotomy and a more aggressive approach toward treating microcytosis in adults with cyanotic congenital heart disease.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Anemia, Iron-Deficiency / complications
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Aspirin / therapeutic use
  • Atrial Fibrillation / complications
  • Cerebrovascular Disorders / etiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / complications*
  • Humans
  • Hypertension / complications
  • Ischemic Attack, Transient / etiology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Risk Factors
  • Smoking
  • Warfarin / therapeutic use


  • Anticoagulants
  • Platelet Aggregation Inhibitors
  • Warfarin
  • Aspirin