A Child's Heart and Mind

Congenital heart disease linked to developmental delays in children

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Robert Carlson, M.D Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Certain birth defects can affect both the body and the mind. Children with heart birth defects, for example, may also have delays in their development.

A recent study found that about three-quarters of children born with congenital heart disease had delays in some developmental area.

Congenital heart disease, the most common type of birth defect, can describe any number of heart-related conditions children may be born with.

The areas tested for developmental delay included brain development, language development and motor skills.

"Ask your pediatrician about your child's development."

The study, led by Kathleen A. Mussatto, PhD, RN, of the Herma Heart Center at Children's Hospital of Wisconsin, looked at possible developmental delay in children born with congenital heart disease.

The researchers used a standardized scale to measure the cognitive, language and motor skills development of 99 children with congenital heart disease. Each child was assessed three to six times up through their third birthday.

Having a developmental delay was defined as having a developmental score that was in the lowest 16 percent of the population.

Approximately one in five of the children who participated in the study had other medical conditions besides their heart birth defect. In addition, about one in five had genetic syndromes, such as Down syndrome or another condition resulting from abnormalities in a child's chromosomes.

Overall, 75 percent of the children had a developmental delay in at least one of the three areas tested.

Whether the children had only one ventricle of the heart (34 children) or had both two ventricles did not appear to make a difference. A healthy heart is composed of four chambers: two ventricles and two atria (a right atrium and a left atrium).

The children whose cognitive and language scores were lower were those who had genetic syndromes. Motor skills scores also remained lower among those who had genetic syndromes compared to those without these conditions.

The researchers identified several characteristics that were also linked to having lower developmental scores in one or more of the areas tested.

Needing supplemental tube feeding (eating through a tube) or needing more time on a machine that helps the heart pump were linked to lower scores.

Also, children who had been hospitalized more recently were more likely to have lower developmental scores.

The researchers concluded that developmental delays in children with these heart defects were common and that parents and health care providers should track them for changes that occur.

The study was published February 3 in the journal Pediatrics. The research was funded by the National Center for Research Resources and the National Institutes of Health. The authors reported no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
February 7, 2014
Last Updated:
February 7, 2014