Identifying self-reported neurocognitive deficits in the adult with congenital heart disease using a simple screening tool

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Children with congenital heart disease (CHD) and adults with acquired heart disease are at an increased risk of neurocognitive impairment. The objective of this study was to determine the prevalence of self-reported neurocognitive impairment and its risk factors in the adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) population.


The Wisconsin Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program recently began screening ACHD patients to identify those with significant self-perceived neurocognitive impairments. Screening consists of using a validated neuro-oncology screening instrument that has been modified for the ACHD population. Patients who answer this survey in a predetermined fashion consistent with significant self-perceived neurocognitive deficits are referred for a formal neurocognitive evaluation. Demographic and clinical information are obtained by chart review.


Three hundred ten patients (49% males) completed the screening process. The average age was 30 years (range: 17–69 years). For the cohort, 57 (18%) patients had no prior cardiac surgeries, 85 (28%) one surgery, 77 (25%) two, and 91 (29%) at least three surgeries. Of those screened, 106 (34%) met criteria for a formal neurocognitive evaluation. Patients who were referred had undergone a greater number of prior cardiac surgeries (2.2 vs 1.7, P = .008) and were more likely to have severe complexity CHD (P = .006). Of those patients who were referred, the worst perceived functioning was in math and attention.


There is a high prevalence of ACHD patients with significant self-perceived neurocognitive deficits. Simple screening questionnaires may help identify those patients at high risk and allow for timely and appropriate referral for formal neurocognitive evaluation, diagnosis, and therapy.

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