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December 1999

Are Screening Echocardiograms Warranted for Neonates With Meningomyelocele?

Author Affiliations

From Primary Children's Medical Center and University of Utah, Salt Lake City.

Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 1999;153(12):1264-1266. doi:10.1001/archpedi.153.12.1264

Objective  To evaluate the incidence and types of congenital heart defects associated with meningomyelocele.

Design  All neonates who underwent meningomyelocele repair and had a perioperative echocardiogram from July 1990 to October 1998 were studied. Medical records were reviewed for age, weight, clinical cardiac examination results, meningomyelocele location, and associated noncardiac defects. Heart defects were identified from reviewing echocardiographic reports and videotapes.

Results  At meningomyelocele surgery, the 105 patients (53 female; 52 male) ranged in age from 1 to 20 days and in weight from 0.6 to 4.1 kg. Congenital heart disease was detected in 39 patients (37%). A secundum atrial septal defect was the most common defect (24%). A ventricular septal defect was found in 10 patients, 2 patients had anomalous pulmonary venous return, and 1 each had tetralogy of Fallot, bicuspid aortic valve, coarctation, and hypoplastic left heart syndrome. A patent ductus arteriosus and patent foramen ovale were not considered abnormal in these neonates. The cardiac examination was abnormal in only 5 of the 39 patients with heart defects (sensitivity = 13%). The presence of associated noncardiac defects (in addition to meningomyelocele) and location of the meningomyelocele (cervicothoracic vs lumbar) did not affect the incidence of heart disease. Of the patients with heart defects, girls were more frequently affected (25 of 39 vs 14 of 39, P<.05).

Conclusions  Congenital heart defects are common in neonates, especially girls, with meningomyelocele and are unrelated to meningomyelocele location or associated noncardiac defects. Because the clinical examination is insensitive for detecting heart defects in this group, screening echocardiograms are warranted. This information has important implications for ventriculoatrial shunting, urinary tract instrumentation (antibiotic prophylaxis), and neurosurgical procedures (venous air embolism).