Congenital heart disease - effects on brain development | Children's Charity

Congenital heart disease - effects on brain development

Project LeaderProfessor S J Counsell, PhD
Project team
  • Dr D Batalle, PhD
  • Dr C Nosarti, PhD
  • Professor J M Simpson, FRCP
  • Dr J-D Tournier, PhD
  • Dr S Victor, FRCPCH
  • Professor M A Rutherford, FRCR FRCPCH
Location Department of Perinatal Imaging and Health, Centre for the Developing Brain, St Thomas' Hospital, King's College London
Other locations
  • Department of Psychosis Studies, Institute of Psychiatry, Psychology and Neuroscience, King's College London, Fetal Cardiology, Guy's and St Thomas' NHS Foundation Trust, London
Duration30 months
Grant awarded20 November 2017
Provisional start date1 April 2018
Provisional end date30 September 2020
Grant amount£174,035.00
Grant codeGN2630

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Congenital heart disease (CHD) is a term used to describe a range of heart problems which develop before birth. Affecting almost 1 in 100 babies born in the UK, it is the most common type of birth defect. Major advances in diagnosis and heart surgery over the last 50 years means that 80 per cent of babies with CHD grow up to become adults. Despite improved survival, children with CHD tend to do worse at school, with up to half of children experiencing problems with movement, coordination, memory, hyperactivity, attention, speech and language skills. Research into the underlying causes of neurodevelopmental delay in these children has been limited. These researchers want to investigate the mechanism by which CHD affects neurodevelopment so that treatment strategies to help these children can be developed.


The research project

The team has already collected very detailed magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) brain scans from 80 babies with CHD before they underwent heart surgery. They plan to repeat the scans in these children who are now around two years old. By comparing the results with a group of healthy control children, they will be able see how the brains of some children with CHD are developing differently. The researchers also want to study the effects of heart surgery on brain development by comparing the brain scans taken before and after surgery. Finally, the children will undergo a range of neurodevelopmental tests to assess their movement, learning and language skills at the age of two years. The team will analyse these data to establish if specific changes in MRI brain scans are linked to disability in early childhood. A better understanding of the underlying causes of brain injury in CHD combined with an accurate way of measuring brain development could enable new treatments to be identified and tested. Overall, the researchers hope to improve the long-term outlook for children with CHD, helping them to achieve their full potential as they grow and develop.

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