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Infants and children born with CHD are at significant risk for neurodevelopmental delays and abnormalities. Individualised developmental care is widely recognised as best practice to support early neurodevelopment for medically fragile infants born premature or requiring surgical intervention after birth. However, wide variability in clinical practice is consistently demonstrated in units caring for infants with CHD. The Cardiac Newborn Neuroprotective Network, a Special Interest Group of the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative, formed a working group of experts to create an evidence-based developmental care pathway to guide clinical practice in hospital settings caring for infants with CHD. The clinical pathway, “Developmental Care Pathway for Hospitalized Infants with Congenital Heart Disease,” includes recommendations for standardised developmental assessment, parent mental health screening, and the implementation of a daily developmental care bundle, which incorporates individualised assessments and interventions tailored to meet the needs of this unique infant population and their families. Hospitals caring for infants with CHD are encouraged to adopt this developmental care pathway and track metrics and outcomes using a quality improvement framework.
Parents who receive a diagnosis of a severe, life-threatening CHD for their foetus or neonate face a complex and stressful decision between termination, palliative care, or surgery. Understanding how parents make this initial treatment decision is critical for developing interventions to improve counselling for these families.
We conducted focus groups in four academic medical centres across the United States of America with a purposive sample of parents who chose termination, palliative care, or surgery for their foetus or neonate diagnosed with severe CHD.
Ten focus groups were conducted with 56 parents (Mage = 34 years; 80% female; 89% White). Results were constructed around three domains: decision-making approaches; values and beliefs; and decision-making challenges. Parents discussed varying approaches to making the decision, ranging from relying on their “gut feeling” to desiring statistics and probabilities. Religious and spiritual beliefs often guided the decision to not terminate the pregnancy. Quality of life was an important consideration, including how each option would impact the child (e.g., pain or discomfort, cognitive and physical abilities) and their family (e.g., care for other children, marriage, and career). Parents reported inconsistent communication of options by clinicians and challenges related to time constraints for making a decision and difficulty in processing information when distressed.
This study offers important insights that can be used to design interventions to improve decision support and family-centred care in clinical practice.
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