The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program at the St. Louis Children’s and Washington University Heart Center offers a multidisciplinary team approach to evaluating and treating infants and children with heart disease, to ensure they reach their highest potential.

Importance of Neurodevelopmental Evaluation and Follow Up

Medical and surgical care of children with congenital heart disease has improved over the last decade. With improved survival there is increasing awareness that these children are at greater risk for and have higher rates of delays and disabilities.

If delays and disabilities are detected early, the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Team can provide treatment and support to improve a child’s development and quality of life. Close follow-up is important throughout childhood because as children grow and develop, new challenges may become evident. These problems may be subtle. However with regular neurodevelopmental evaluations, these issues can be detected early when therapy and intervention can make the biggest impact.

Some factors that may increase the risk of developmental delays in children include:

  • Undergoing open-heart surgery as a newborn or infant
  • Having cyanotic heart disease (birth defects in the heart that cause low blood oxygen levels)
  • Having congenital heart disease AND any of the following:
    • Premature birth (before 37 weeks)
    • Developmental delay as an infant
    • History of mechanical heart support, such as ECMO (extracorporeal membrane oxygenation) or a ventricular assist device, or needing cardiopulmonary resuscitation (CPR)
    • Heart transplant
    • Hospitalization for 2 weeks or more
    • Seizures related to heart surgery
    • Brain abnormalities discovered in brain imaging
    • Suspected genetic abnormality

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