ADHD Rx Appeared Safe for Kids with Congenital Heart Disease

Attention deficit hyperactivity disorder stimulant medications appeared safe for children with congenital heart disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Anyssa Garza, PharmD

(RxWiki News) Kids with congenital heart disease often are at risk for attention deficit hyperactivity disorder (ADHD). But whether ADHD medications can be safely given to this population has been a big concern for parents and doctors alike.

In spite of these concerns, a new study from Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center (CCHMC) found that stimulant medications typically used to treat ADHD may be safe for children who also have congenital heart disease.

"Children with congenital heart disease are at high risk for ADHD, but fears about cardiovascular side effects, including sudden death, limit the use of stimulant medications," said lead study author Julia Anixt, MD, a pediatrician at CCHMC, in a press release. "This study indicates that stimulants are both effective and safe when prescribed with appropriate monitoring and in collaboration with the patient's cardiologist."

Congenital heart disease is a problem with the heart's structure and function that is present at birth.

ADHD is a mental disorder that is typically associated with inattention, hyperactivity and impulsiveness. ADHD begins in children and can continue into adulthood.

According to the National Institute of Mental Health, ADHD affects about 4.1 percent of US adults and about 9 percent of US children. Boys are four times more at risk than girls.

ADHD is commonly treated with stimulants, such as Adderall and Ritalin.

The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has required stimulant medications to include a warning about the risks associated with use in patients with certain heart conditions.

For this study, Dr. Anixt and team used health records to identify 44 children ages 6 to 18 with heart conditions who took stimulants for ADHD and were compared to children with similar heart conditions and who were not treated with stimulants for ADHD.

The patients on stimulants showed no significant differences in blood pressure or oxygen saturation from the patients not on stimulants. In addition, when treated with stimulant medications, these patients showed a significant reduction in ADHD symptoms.

Dr. Anixt and team concluded that children with heart conditions can be safely treated with stimulants to treat ADHD. However, they noted that these medications should always be appropriately monitored and followed up by the child's pediatrician and cardiologist.

This study was presented Oct. 4 at the annual meeting of the Society for Developmental and Behavioral Pediatrics. Research presented at conferences may not have been peer-reviewed.

No funding sources or conflicts of interest were disclosed.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
October 5, 2015
Last Updated:
October 6, 2015