Impact of congenital heart disease on fetal brain development and injury

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Purpose of reviewAdvances in cardiac surgical techniques and intensive care have led to improved survival in babies with congenital heart disease (CHD). Although it is true that the majority of children with CHD today survive, many have impaired neurodevelopmental outcome. Although continuing to improve short-term morbidity and mortality are important goals, recent research has focused on defining the impact of CHD on brain development and brain injury in utero.Recent findingsThe impact of CHD on the developing brain of the fetus and infant will be discussed. Neurologic abnormalities detectable prior to surgery will be described and postnatal progression of abnormalities will be highlighted. Potential causes of these findings will be discussed, including altered cerebral blood flow in utero, and brain development and risk for in-utero and postnatal brain injury. Finally, neurologic and developmental outcome after surgical repair of CHD will be reviewed.SummaryNeurodevelopmental evaluation preoperatively and postoperatively in CHD patients should be standard practice, not only to identify those with impairments who would benefit from intervention services but also to identify risk factors and strategies to optimize outcome. Fetal management and intervention strategies for specific defects may ultimately play a role in improving in-utero hemodynamics and increasing cerebral oxygen delivery to enhance brain development.

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