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Children with congenital heart disease (CHD) can face neurodevelopmental, psychological, and behavioural difficulties beginning in infancy and continuing through adulthood. Despite overall improvements in medical care and a growing focus on neurodevelopmental screening and evaluation in recent years, neurodevelopmental disabilities, delays, and deficits remain a concern. The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative was founded in 2016 with the goal of improving neurodevelopmental outcomes for individuals with CHD and pediatric heart disease. This paper describes the establishment of a centralised clinical data registry to standardize data collection across member institutions of the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative. The goal of this registry is to foster collaboration for large, multi-centre research and quality improvement initiatives that will benefit individuals and families with CHD and improve their quality of life. We describe the components of the registry, initial research projects proposed using data from the registry, and lessons learned in the development of the registry.
Youth with CHD are at greater risk for neurodevelopmental disorders compared to healthy controls. The aetiology is multi-factorial but includes medical and demographic factors. We sought to characterise the prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders in patients with CHD. Our population included 206 patients with CHD, aged 3–21, who were referred for neuropsychological evaluation. Neurodevelopmental diagnoses were determined by a licensed psychologist. Rates of neurodevelopmental diagnoses were compared to national prevalence rates. Exploratory analyses (chi-square) examined which medical factors (i.e., cardiac diagnosis, genetic condition, prematurity, seizures, and stroke) were associated with neurodevelopmental diagnosis. There was higher prevalence of neurodevelopmental disorders in CHD when compared to the general population (44%). Rates of attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (27.3%), autism spectrum disorder (9.6%), and intellectual disability (5.9%) were notably higher than those seen in the general population (p < .01). Children with a history of aortic obstruction were more likely to be diagnosed with autism (p < .05), and children with genetic conditions were more likely to be diagnosed with an intellectual disability (p < .05). Neurodevelopmental diagnoses were not significantly associated with any other specific medical variables (e.g., cardiac diagnosis, seizures, stroke, prematurity, and antenatal diagnosis). School-aged children were more likely to be diagnosed with any neurodevelopmental disorder and attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder (31.7%; p < .01) than preschool-age children. In summary, our results confirm that children and adolescents with CHD are at high risk for neurodevelopmental disorders and require ongoing monitoring, care, and support. Children with genetic disorders and those with aortic obstruction may be more at risk for certain neurodevelopmental disorders.
COVID-19 has markedly impacted the provision of neurodevelopmental care. In response, the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative established a Task Force to assess the telehealth practices of cardiac neurodevelopmental programmes during COVID-19, including adaptation of services, test protocols and interventions, and perceived obstacles, disparities, successes, and training needs.
A 47-item online survey was sent to 42 Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative member sites across North America within a 3-week timeframe (22 July to 11 August 2020) to collect cross-sectional data on practices.
Of the 30 participating sites (71.4% response rate), all were providing at least some clinical services at the time of the survey and 24 sites (80%) reported using telehealth. All but one of these sites were offering new telehealth services in response to COVID-19, with the most striking change being the capacity to offer new intervention services for children and their caregivers. Only a third of sites were able to carry out standardised, performance-based, neurodevelopmental testing with children and adolescents using telehealth, and none had completed comparable testing with infants and toddlers. Barriers associated with language, child ability, and access to technology were identified as contributing to disparities in telehealth access.
Telehealth has enabled continuation of at least some cardiac neurodevelopmental services during COVID-19, despite the challenges experienced by providers, children, families, and health systems. The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative provides a unique platform for sharing challenges and successes across sites, as we continue to shape an evidence-based, efficient, and consistent approach to the care of individuals with CHD.
The Neurodevelopmental and Psychological Outcomes Working Group of the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative was formed in 2018 through support from an R13 grant from the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute with the goals of identifying knowledge gaps regarding the neurodevelopmental and psychological outcomes of individuals with CHD and investigations needed to advance science, policy, clinical care, and patient/family outcomes. Accurate characterisation of neurodevelopmental and psychological outcomes in children with CHD will drive improvements in patient and family outcomes through targeted intervention. Decades of research have produced a generalised perspective about neurodevelopmental and psychological outcomes in this heterogeneous population. Future investigations need to shift towards improving methods, measurement, and analyses of outcomes to better inform early identification, prevention, and intervention. Improved definition of underlying developmental, neuropsychological, and social-emotional constructs is needed, with an emphasis on symptom networks and dimensions. Identification of clinically meaningful outcomes that are most important to key stakeholders, including patients, families, schools and providers, is essential, specifically how and which neurodevelopmental differences across the developmental trajectory impact stakeholders. A better understanding of the discontinuity and patterns of neurodevelopment across the lifespan is critical as well, with some areas being more impactful at some ages than others. Finally, the field needs to account for the impact of race/ethnicity, socio-economic status, cultural and linguistic diversity on our measurement, interpretation of data, and approach to intervention and how to improve generalisability to the larger worldwide population of patients and families living with CHD.
Compared to the general population, individuals with complex congenital heart disease are at increased risk for deficits in cognitive, neurodevelopmental, psychosocial, and physical functioning, resulting in a diminished health-related quality of life. These deficits have been well described over the past 25 years, but significant gaps remain in our understanding of the best practices to improve neurodevelopmental and psychosocial outcomes and health-related quality of life for individuals with paediatric and congenital heart disease. Innovative clinical, quality improvement, and research opportunities with collaboration across multiple disciplines and institutions were needed to address these gaps. The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative was founded in 2016 with a described mission to determine and implement best practices of neurodevelopmental and psychosocial services for individuals and their families with paediatric and congenital heart disease through clinical, quality improvement, and research initiatives. The vision is to be a multi-centre, multi-national, multi-disciplinary group of healthcare professionals committed to working together and partnering with families to optimise neurodevelopmental outcomes for individuals with paediatric and congenital heart disease through clinical, quality, and research initiatives, intending to maximise quality of life for every individual across the lifespan. This manuscript describes the development and organisation of the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative.
In 2012, the American Heart Association and the American Academy of Paediatrics released a scientific statement with guidelines for the evaluation and management of the neurodevelopmental needs of children with CHD. Decades of outcome research now highlight a range of cognitive, learning, motor, and psychosocial vulnerabilities affecting individuals with CHD across the lifespan. The number of institutions with Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Follow-Up Programmes and services for CHD is growing worldwide. This manuscript provides an expanded set of neurodevelopmental evaluation strategies and considerations for professionals working with school-age children with CHD. Recommendations begin with the referral process and access to the evaluation, the importance of considering medical risk factors (e.g., genetic disorders, neuroimaging), and the initial clinical interview with the family. The neurodevelopmental evaluation should take into account both family and patient factors, including the child/family’s primary language, country of origin, and other cultural factors, as well as critical stages in development that place the child at higher risk. Domains of assessment are reviewed with emphasis on target areas in need of evaluation based on current outcome research with CHD. Finally, current recommendations are made for assessment batteries using a brief core battery and an extended comprehensive clinical battery. Consistent use of a recommended assessment battery will increase opportunities for research collaborations, and ultimately help improve the quality of care for families and children with CHD.
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