Background & Objectives: As more heart transplant recipients survive into late adolescence, research addressing long-term psychosocial and neurodevelopmental outcomes is imperative. The limited literature available suggests risk for psychosocial difficulties and lower cognitive, academic, and neuropsychological functioning. This paper reviews topic-related literature and provides preliminary data examining psychosocial and neuropsychological functioning of adolescents who received their heart transplant during infancy.
Method: This paper offers a literature review AND presents preliminary data from studies conducted through Loma Linda University Childrens Hospital (LLUCH). Study one examined psychosocial functioning and quality of life of adolescent infant heart transplant recipients. In study two, cognitive, academic, and neuropsychological data were analyzed.
Results: Study 1: Overall psychosocial functioning fell in the Average range, however, a significant percentage of participants presented with difficulties on one or more of the psychosocial domains. Quality of life was also within normal limits, though concerns with general health and bodily discomfort were noted. Study 2: Cognitive functioning was assessed to be Below Average, with 43-62% of the participants demonstrating significant impairments. Neuropsychological functioning yielded significant weakness on language functioning, and mild weakness on visual-motor integration and executive functioning.
Conclusion: While the majority of the participants demonstrate psychosocial resiliency, a subgroup present with difficulties suggesting the need for intervention. Cognitive/neuropsychological functioning suggests poorer functioning with patterns similar to other high-risk pediatric populations. These results are preliminary and further research on long-term psychosocial and neuropsychological development of pediatric heart transplant recipients is needed to better understand and ameliorate developmental trajectories.