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Intensive Care Med. 2013 Jun;39(6):1104-12. doi: 10.1007/s00134-013-2887-y. Epub 2013 Mar 28.

Increased morbidity and mortality in very preterm/VLBW infants with congenital heart disease.

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Cardiac Intensive Care Unit, Bambino Gesù Children's Hospital, IRCCS, Rome, Italy.



To study the association between congenital heart diseases (CHD) and in-hospital mortality and morbidity of very preterm/very low birth weight (VLBW) infants.


The area-based prospective cohort study ACTION included all infants with gestational age (GA) 22-31 weeks or birth weight <1,500 g admitted to neonatal care between July 2003 and June 2005 in six Italian regions (n = 3,684). CHD were coded according to ICD9-CM. Cluster multivariable logistic regression analyses were used to assess the relationship between CHD and mortality and selected morbidities [neonatal infection, ultrasound brain abnormalities, retinopathy of prematurity (ROP), and bronchopulmonary dysplasia (BPD)] adjusting for potential confounders.


Seventy-one patients had CHD [19.3 ‰, 95 % confidence interval (CI) 15.1-24.2 ‰]. The most common lesions were isolated atrial and ventricular septal defects (31.1 and 26.8 %, respectively), pulmonary valvar stenosis (12.7 %), and tetralogy of Fallot (5.6 %). Compared with other infants, CHD patients showed significantly higher GA and frequency of small for gestational age (SGA, i.e., birth weight ≤3rd centile). After adjustment for GA, sex, SGA, presence of extracardiac malformations or chromosomal anomalies, and region of birth, CHD patients had a significantly higher likelihood of infection, BPD, ROP, and, after 27 weeks gestation only, hospital mortality. The increased risk of ROP appeared to be partly due to infection.


In very preterm/VLBW infants CHD are more prevalent than in the general liveborn population, and confer an increased risk of death and serious morbidities independently of other risk factors. These results may be useful to better tailor prognostic assessment and diagnostic and therapeutic interventions for these children.

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