Surgery has become much safer for children with congenital heart defects over the past 60 years, based on analysis of a Finnish health registry that shows significant improvements in survival rates between 1953 and 2009.
Published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, this study looked at mortality rates among children undergoing surgery for congenital heart defects. Congenital heart defects are the most common type of birth defect, affecting nearly 1% of all births in the United States. For some patients, early surgery can correct heart defects and prevent complications later in life. But with significant advances in treatment, experts wonder how much progress we’ve made in improving outcomes after cardiac surgery in recent decades.
To learn more, researchers analyzed data from a cardiac surgery database and population registry in Finland. Together, these registries included nearly 11,000 patients with heart defects that underwent cardiac surgery before the age of 15 between 1953 and 2009.
Overall, researchers found that mortality rates within 30 days of surgery were 6%. During nearly 60 years of follow-up, an additional 10% of patients died in the years following their surgery. However, mortality rates significantly decreased between the 1950s and 2009. In fact, sudden death after surgery for conditions like atrial septal defect and tetralogy of Fallot decreased to zero by 2009.
However, heart-related deaths were more likely in patients with severe heart defects. Authors also note that pneumonia remains a major concern, as it caused the majority of non-heart related deaths among patients. Heart failure was the most common cause of heart-related deaths, although heart failure rates decreased over the study period.
The good news is that post-surgery survival rates have significantly improved for children with congenital defects. According to authors, improvements are largely thanks to more aggressive and advanced surgical interventions that have been developed in the past few decades.
However, experts still challenge patients and providers to further maximize survival rates. With early lifestyle changes a
nd improved treatment, experts hope to continue to improve survival rates and outcomes.