Children who underwent surgery for complex congenital heart defects present worse exercise capacity than their healthy peers. In adults and adolescents, heart failure is assessed on the basis of clinical symptoms using the New York Heart Association (NYHA) score, while in an infant Ross scale; heart failure can also be evaluated by other parameters. The purpose of this study was to compare the degree of exercise tolerance in children after surgery for complex heart defects, assessed by the ratio of maximum oxygen uptake (VO2max) and the brain natriuretic peptide (N-terminal fragment of the prohormone brain-type natriuretic peptide [NT-proBNP]) concentration.
The study group consisted of 42 children, ages 9 to 17 years (mean 14.00 ± 2.72). Among them there were 22 children with tetralogy of Fallot (ToF) after total correction, 18 children with transposition of the great arteries (d-TGA) after the arterial switch operation, and 2 children with single ventricle (SV) after the Fontan operation. All but 1 child were in NYHA class I. The control group consisted of 20 healthy children. Outcomes of interest were the ratio of VO2max, determined during ergospirometry, and the level of NT-proBNP. The statistical analysis was performed and the groups were considered significantly different for P < 0.05.
There was no statistically significant correlation between NT-proBNP and maximum oxygen uptake (VO2) kg−1 min−1 in the study group compared with the control group.
The VO2max in the test group had a mean value less (34.6 ± 8.0) than controls (38.4 ± 7.7), and the differences were statistically significant (P = 0.041). In contrast, the average concentration of NT-proBNP in the study group was higher than controls (117.9 ± 74.3 vs 18.0 ± 24.5), and these differences were statistically significant (P < 0.001).
After operations for complex heart defects (ToF, TGA, and SV), children have worse heart function parameters and exercise capacity than the healthy population. To control this, we recommend postoperative ergospirometry and determination of NT-proBNP concentrations.