Children With Congenital Heart Disease Increasingly Overweight

Face Increase Risk of Heart Disease as Adults

Monday, November 15, 2010

Children with congenital heart disease are more overweight than similar children a generation ago, raising their risk of heart attack and heart disease as adults, according to a new study.

These children have a higher body mass index and a heavier left ventricle, the main pumping chamber of the heart, according to a Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center study. A heavier left ventricle is a known risk factor for heart attack and stroke.

The study will be presented Sunday Nov. 14 at the annual meeting of the American Heart Association in Chicago.

“Those who had surgical procedures as children to fix common congenital heart defects and are overweight or obese may be at increased risk,” says David Crowley, MD, a fellow at the Cincinnati Children’s Heart Institute and the study’s lead author. “That’s because anytime the heart is stopped for open heart surgery and put on cardiopulmonary bypass, it’s negatively affected. It’s like starting a game with one strike against you. Obesity is a second strike. More study is needed to see exactly how much the combination of open heart surgery plus obesity affects children’s hearts. Are children with heart disease starting out with one strike, two strikes, or even more because of a synergistic effect?”

Dr. Crowley studied more than 260 children between the ages of 2 and 19 who had surgical repair of holes in their hearts between 1990 and 2010. Some had these holes surgically repaired and some had them repaired non-surgically using a device inserted into the heart via a catheter.

“It’s essential that overweight kids lose weight, especially those who have been on bypass,” says Crowley. “And it is essential that more studies be done to address the impact of the obesity epidemic on the long-term outcome and cardiovascular health of children with congenital heart diseases.

The study is the second intergenerational look at cardiac risks that Dr. Crowley has conducted in recent years. He presented a study at last year’s AHA annual meeting showing that children who did not have heart disease also had higher cardiovascular risk factors today than a generation ago. That study showed that the average weight is 11 pounds higher in 2008 than it was approximately 20 years earlier.

“If current generational changes were to continue at this rate, half of American children would be overweight in just two generations time,” says Dr. Crowley.

About Cincinnati Children’s

Cincinnati Children’s Hospital Medical Center is one of just eight children’s hospitals named to the Honor Roll in U.S. News and World Report’s 2010-11 Best Children’s Hospitals. It is ranked #1 for digestive disorders and highly ranked for its expertise in pulmonology, cancer, neonatology, heart and heart surgery, neurology and neurosurgery, diabetes and endocrinology, orthopedics, kidney disorders and urology. Cincinnati Children’s is one of the top two recipients of pediatric research grants from the National Institutes of Health. It is internationally recognized for quality and transformation work by Leapfrog, The Joint Commission, the Institute for Healthcare Improvement, the federal Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality, and by hospitals and health organizations it works with globally. Additional information can be found at

Contact Information

 Jim Feuer, 513-636-4656