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Pediatr Cardiol. 2010 Oct;31(7):969-76. doi: 10.1007/s00246-010-9730-9. Epub 2010 Jun 3.

Central nervous system changes in pediatric heart failure: a volumetric study.

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Division of Cardiology, Childrens Hospital Los Angeles, Los Angeles, CA 90027, USA.


Autonomic dysfunction, mood disturbances, and memory deficits appear in pediatric and adult heart failure (HF). Brain areas controlling these functions show injury in adult HF patients, many of whom have comorbid cerebrovascular disease. We examined whether similar brain pathology develops in pediatric subjects without such comorbidities. In this study, high-resolution T1 brain magnetic resonance images were collected from seven severe HF subjects age (age 8-18 years [mean 13]; left ventricular shortening 9 to 19% [median 14%]) and seven age-matched healthy controls (age 8-18 years [mean 13]). After segmentation into gray matter (GM), white matter, and cerebrospinal fluid (CSF), regional volume loss between groups was determined by voxel-based morphometry. GM volume loss appeared on all HF scans, but ischemic changes and infarcts were absent. HF subjects showed greater CSF volume than controls (mean ± SD 0.30 ± 0.04 vs. 0.25 ± 0.04 l, P = 0.03), but total intracranial volume was identical (1.39 ± 0.11 vs. 1.39 ± 0.09 l, P = NS). Regional GM volume reduction appeared in the right and left posterior hippocampus, bilateral mid-insulae, and the superior medial frontal gyrus and mid-cingulate cortex of HF subjects (threshold P < 0.001). No volume-loss sites appeared in control brains. We conclude that pediatric HF patients show brain GM loss in areas similar to those of adult HF subjects. Substantial changes emerged in sites that regulate autonomic function as well as mood, personality and short-term memory. In the absence of thromboembolic disease and many comorbid conditions found in adult HF patients, pediatric HF patients show significant, focal GM volume loss, which may coincide with the multiple neurologic and psychological changes observed in patients with HF.

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