The association between cardiac physiology, acquired brain injury, and postnatal brain growth in critical congenital heart disease

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To assess the trajectory of perioperative brain growth in relationship to cardiac diagnosis and acquired brain injuries.


This was a cohort study of term neonates with hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS) and d-transposition of the great arteries (d-TGA). Subjects underwent magnetic resonance imaging of the brain pre- and postoperatively to determine the severity of brain injury and total and regional brain volumes by the use of automated morphometry. Comparisons were made by cardiac lesion and injury status.


A total of 79 subjects were included (49, d-TGA; 30, HLHS). Subjects with HLHS had more postoperative brain injury (55.6% vs 30.4%, P = .03) and more severe brain injury (moderate-to-severe white matter [WM] injury, P = .01). Total and regional perioperative brain growth was not different by brain injury status (either pre- or postoperative). However, subjects with moderate-to-severe WM injury had a slower rate of brain growth in WM and gray matter compared with those with no injury. Subjects with HLHS had a slower rate of growth globally and in WM and deep gray matter as compared with d-TGA (total brain volume: 12 cm3/wk vs 7 cm3; WM: 2.1 cm3/wk vs 0.6 cm3; deep gray matter: 1.5 cm3/wk vs 0.7 cm3; P < .001), after we adjusted for gestational age at scan and the presence of brain injury. This difference remained after excluding subjects with moderate-to-severe WM injury.


Neonates with HLHS have a slower rate of global and regional brain growth compared with d-TGA, likely related to inherent physiologic differences postoperatively. These findings demonstrate the complex interplay between cardiac lesion, brain injury, and brain growth.

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