New test to predict outcomes for children having surgery for congenital heart disease

11 May 2015        

Black and white sonogram of a baby in the womb

Research we funded suggests it may be possible to predict outcomes of heart surgery for children with congenital heart disease. 

The study has shown that the presence of small molecules in the blood may help to predict how well a child will recover after surgery for congenital heart disease

The research involved 28 children who were undergoing surgery for heart defects. Blood samples were taken before surgery through to 48 hours afterwards, and the levels of different molecules were measured. They found a greater presence of certain molecules was associated with better outcomes for children in the crucial hours and days after surgery, whilst the presence of others correlated with poorer outcomes. 

Born with it

Congenital heart disease is a group of heart conditions which develop in the womb, before a baby is born. It affects over 4,000 babies every year, with around one third requiring surgery during early childhood. However, surgery itself can cause complications that affect a child’s long term health.


Research and results

Today, thanks to advances in treatment and care we helped make possible, more than eight out of ten babies with congenital heart disease grow up to be adults. But identifying children who are at the greatest risk following surgery is important to allow doctors to target them with the appropriate critical care. 

This latest study, published in Critical Care Medicine and carried out by researchers from the University of Cambridge, Imperial College London and the Royal Brompton Hospital, represents a positive step towards improving care given to children following heart surgery.

Professor Jeremy Pearson, our Associate Medical Director, said: “This study has shown a possible new way to assess children recovering from congenital heart surgery by measuring certain molecules in the blood. By identifying children who might be struggling sooner, doctors could intervene with treatments earlier. More research is now required to see whether such a test could give doctors that early warning sign that treatment is needed.”

Help us fund more research

Calum, aged 9, was born with congenital heart disease. He had surgery when he was only ten days old and has had a number of other operations to correct his condition, Truncus Arteriosus.

You can help us fund life saving research that can have a huge impact on the lives of children like Calum.