Some children with heart defects struggle in school

By Robert Preidt

health day reporter

TUESDAY, Nov. 10, 2015 (HealthDay News) — Children born with heart defects often do worse in school than their peers, according to a new study.

Researchers led by Dr. Matthew Oster of Children’s Healthcare of Atlanta analyzed end-of-year test scores for third-graders in North Carolina public schools between 1998 and 2003.

Compared to other children, those with a congenital heart defect were 40% less likely to meet standards in reading proficiency, 20% less likely to meet standards in math, and 50% less likely to meet standards in both subjects. according to the study.

The researchers also found that 2.8% of children with heart defects were retained in third grade, compared to 1.9% of other children.

Two pediatric care experts who reviewed the new findings weren’t surprised.

“Children with congenital heart disease have long been known to be at increased risk for later problems with attention and academic performance in school,” said Dr. Andrew Adesman, chief of developmental and behavioral pediatrics at the Cohen. New York Children’s Medical Center.

He said the extent of academic difficulties is often proportional to the severity of the child’s heart defect. “Fortunately, the risks of later developmental problems are lowest in children with the least complicated and most common forms of congenital heart disease,” Adesman said.

Thus, “most children with congenital heart disease will not have major academic difficulties,” Adesman said, but “parents and clinicians should be alert to academic difficulties in children with a history of complex congenital heart defects. “.

Another expert pointed out that more needs to be done to uncover the causes of academic performance problems in these children.

One question: “How many associated neurodevelopmental delays stem from side effects of necessary care, such as using the heart-lung machine during heart surgery, versus genetic issues causing defects that can also affect the brain?” said Dr. Bruce Gelb.

“Answers to this question will direct physicians to strategies to try in order to achieve the best outcomes for children with congenital heart defects,” said Gelb, who directs the Mindich Child Health and Developmental Institute at the Icahn School of Medicine. of Mount Sinai in New York City.

The study was to be presented Tuesday at the American Heart Association’s annual meeting in Orlando. Results presented at medical meetings are generally considered preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.