Study links infant heart surgery to increased risk of high blood pressure in adulthood

Infant is examined by a clinician using a stethoscope.

Children who underwent surgery to correct congenital heart disease were 12 times more likely to develop high blood pressure in adulthood than the general population, according to a study published in JAMA Network Open. The researchers suggest that lifetime monitoring after infant cardiac surgery may help reduce their risk of high blood pressure, or hypertension, as adults. 

Congenital heart disease is among the most common forms of birth defects and successful surgical interventions are usually performed at the age of 2, the investigators said. However, researchers know little about the risks of long-term negative outcomes—including hypertension—in this population.  
To find out, a joint U.S.-Canadian team reviewed medical records of 3,600 children in Canada who had undergone surgeries to repair congenital heart disease within 10 years of birth and compared results with 36,000 closely-matched children who did not have this condition or any heart surgeries. The researchers followed the children’s health outcomes for up to 13 years. Of the children who underwent surgery, about 12% developed hypertension, compared to about 1% of the other group.  
Past research has shown that surgical repair of heart problems during the first decade of life can cause biological changes that can affect the cardiovascular system after surgery. Future research is needed to determine if early treatment of hypertension in these patients can prevent hypertension later. The study was partly funded by the NHLBI.