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Neurological complications associated with the treatment of patients with congenital cardiac disease: consensus definitions from the Multi-Societal Database Committee for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease

  • Geoffrey L. Bird (a1), Howard E. Jeffries (a2), Daniel J. Licht (a3), Gil Wernovsky (a1), Paul M. Weinberg (a4), Christian Pizarro (a5) and Giovanni Stellin (a6)
  • DOI:
  • Published online: 01 December 2008

A complication is an event or occurrence that is associated with a disease or a healthcare intervention, is a departure from the desired course of events, and may cause, or be associated with suboptimal outcome. A complication does not necessarily represent a breech in the standard of care that constitutes medical negligence or medical malpractice. An operative or procedural complication is any complication, regardless of cause, occurring (1) within 30 days after surgery or intervention in or out of the hospital, or (2) after 30 days during the same hospitalization subsequent to the operation or intervention. Operative and procedural complications include both intraoperative/intraprocedural complications and postoperative/postprocedural complications in this time interval.

The MultiSocietal Database Committee for Pediatric and Congenital Heart Disease has set forth a comprehensive list of complications associated with the treatment of patients with congenital cardiac disease, related to cardiac, pulmonary, renal, haematological, infectious, neurological, gastrointestinal, and endocrine systems, as well as those related to the management of anaesthesia and perfusion, and the transplantation of thoracic organs. The objective of this manuscript is to examine the definitions of operative morbidity as they relate specifically to the neurological system. These specific definitions and terms will be used to track morbidity associated with surgical and transcatheter interventions and other forms of therapy in a common language across many separate databases.

Although neurological injury and adverse neurodevelopmental outcome can follow procedures for congenital cardiac defects, much of the variability in neurological outcome is now recognized to be more related to patient specific factors rather than procedural factors. Additionally, the recognition of pre and postoperative neurological morbidity requires procedures and imaging modalities that can be resource-intensive to acquire and analyze, and little is known or described about variations in “sampling rate” from centre to centre.

The purpose of this effort is to propose an initial set of consensus definitions for neurological complications following congenital cardiac surgery and intervention. Given the dramatic advances in understanding achieved to date, and those yet to occur, this effort is explicitly recognized as only the initial first step of a process that must remain iterative. This list is a component of a systems-based compendium of complications that may help standardize terminology and possibly enhance the study and quantification of morbidity in patients with congenital cardiac malformations. Clinicians caring for patients with congenital cardiac disease may be able to use this list for databases, initiatives to improve quality, reporting of complications, and comparing strategies of treatment.

Corresponding author
Correspondence to: Geoffrey L. Bird, MD MSIS FAAP, CICU Physician Office Suite, 6th Floor, Main Building, The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia, 324 South 34th Street, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-4399, United States of America. Tel: 215-590-6256; Fax: 215-590-1924; E-mail:
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1.JA Ballweg , G Wernovsky , JW Gaynor . Neurodevelopmental outcomes following congenital heart surgery. Pediatr Cardiol 2007; 28: 126133.

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4.DJ Licht , J Wang , DW Silvestre , Preoperative cerebral blood flow is diminished in neonates with severe congenital heart defects. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2004; 128: 841849.

5.JR Kaltman , H Di , Z Tian , J Rychik . Impact of congenital heart disease on cerebrovascular blood flow dynamics in the fetus. Ultrasound Obstet Gynecol 2005; 25: 3236.

6.G Wernovsky . Improving neurologic and quality-of-life outcomes in children with congenital heart disease: past, present, and future. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2008; 135: 240242.

7.TE Dominguez , G Wernovsky , JW Gaynor . Cause and prevention of central nervous system injury in neonates undergoing cardiac surgery. Semin Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2007; 19: 269277.

8.RM Wachter . Expected and unanticipated consequences of the quality and information technology revolutions. JAMA 2006; 295: 27802783.

11.JW Gaynor , SC Nicolson , GP Jarvik , Increasing duration of deep hypothermic circulatory arrest is associated with an increased incidence of postoperative electroencephalographic seizures. J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg 2005; 130: 12781286.

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Cardiology in the Young
  • ISSN: 1047-9511
  • EISSN: 1467-1107
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