Even ‘mild’ heart defects may affect kids’ school performance | Reuters

(Reuters Health) – Children born with heart defects, even minor ones, perform worse than other kids on third-grade reading and math tests, a new study finds.

“While it was not surprising to see this finding in children with severe heart defects, it was a surprise to see that children with heart defects that are often considered mild may likewise have challenges in school,” lead author Dr. Matthew Oster from Emory University School of Medicine in Atlanta told Reuters Health.

“Parents and teachers should be aware that children with heart defects may benefit from early recognition and evaluation for potential learning challenges,” he said by email.

Children with critical congenital heart defects, such as hypoplastic left heart syndrome or transposition of the great arteries, who require surgery in infancy, are known to be at high risk for poor neurocognitive outcomes in childhood, Oster and his colleagues write in Circulation Cardiovascular Quality Outcomes.

This “subset” of kids with severe heart defects typically undergoes intensive, and expensive, screening for these cognitive problems, but performing this kind of screening on all kids with congenital heart defects is not feasible, the authors note. Moreover, it would “not necessarily translate into the real-world outcomes that are of greatest interest to parents, most notably school performance,” they write.

The researchers used records from three North Carolina databases to…

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