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Approach to managing children with heart disease for noncardiac surgery


  • Section Editor: Greg Hammer

Dr Michelle C. White, Department of Paediatric Anaesthesia, Bristol Royal Hospital for Children, Marlborough Street, Bristol BS2 8BJ, UK (email:


Congenital heart disease is the commonest birth defect, and advances in modern medicine mean 90% of these children now survive to adulthood. Therefore, many children present to their local hospital requiring general anesthesia for common childhood conditions. They pose a challenge for anesthesia because perioperative morbidity and mortality is greater compared with other children. It is impossible to prescribe a formula for anesthetizing children with heart disease because of the complexity of heart defects and the variety of noncardiac surgery. There is also a lack of high-quality data of efficacy of one anesthetic technique over another. Much data come from case series or isolated case reports. In a rapidly advancing field such as cardiac surgery, studies of long-term complications may be out of date by the time they are published, limiting applicability of the results. Because of these factors, claims of efficacy and safety of various approaches to managing children with heart disease for noncardiac surgery must be interpreted cautiously. This narrative review aims to present the evidence concerning a range of anesthetic techniques, the long-term complications of congenital heart disease and suggest a physiological and evidence-based approach to managing these children.