Feasibility of a Team Approach to Complex Congenital Heart Defect Neurodevelopmental Follow-Up: Early Experience of a Combined Cardiology/Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Follow-Up Program

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Infants with complex congenital heart disease are at high risk for poor neurodevelopmental outcomes. However, implementation of dedicated congenital heart disease follow-up programs presents important infrastructure, personnel, and resource challenges. We present the development, implementation, and retrospective review of 1- and 2-year outcomes of a Complex Congenital Heart Defect Neurodevelopmental Follow-Up program. This program was a synergistic approach between the Pediatric Cardiology, Cardiothoracic Surgery, Pediatric Intensive Care, and Neonatal Intensive Care Unit Follow-Up teams to provide a feasible and responsible utilization of existing infrastructure and personnel, to develop and implement a program dedicated to children with congenital heart disease. Trained developmental testers administered the Ages and Stages Questionnaire-3 over the phone to the parents of all referred children at least once between 6 and 12 months’ corrected age. At 18 months’ corrected age, all children were scheduled in the Neonatal Intensive-Care Unit Follow-Up Clinic for a visit with standardized neurological exams, Bayley III, multidisciplinary therapy evaluations and continued follow-up. Of the 132 patients identified in the Cardiothoracic Surgery database and at discharge from the hospital, a total number of 106 infants were reviewed. A genetic syndrome was identified in 23.4% of the population. Neuroimaging abnormalities were identified in 21.7% of the cohort with 12.8% having visibly severe insults. As a result, 23 (26.7%) received first-time referrals for early intervention services, 16 (13.8%) received referrals for new services in addition to their existing ones. We concluded that utilization of existing resources in collaboration with established programs can ensure targeted neurodevelopmental follow-up for all children with complex congenital heart disease.

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