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ISSN: 1641-4640
Folia Neuropathologica
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vol. 61
Original paper

Brain pathology in patients with congenital heart disease

Murad Alturkustani
Linda J. Szymanski

King Abdulaziz University, Jeddah, Saudi Arabia
Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Children’s Hospital Los Angeles, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA, USA
Folia Neuropathol 2023; 61 (1): 16-24
Online publish date: 2022/09/21
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Brain pathology in patients with congenital heart disease (CHD) is associated with neuro-developmental delay. Imaging studies support vascular etiology for both white and gray matter lesions. In this retrospective study, we described the pathological changes in the brains of patients with CHD.

Material and methods:
Last twenty autopsy cases in pediatric patients with CHD at our institution were retrieved and autopsy reports were reviewed. Available hematoxylin-eosin, special, and immunostains were evaluated, and at least one section from each case was stained with anti-glial fibrillary acidic protein (GFAP), anti-amyloid precursor protein (APP), and anti-HLA-DR antibody. Staining pattern of these immunostains was compared to staining pattern in five control cases. Control cases comprised of 2 cases with no significant pathological changes, and 3 cases with telencephalic leukoencephalopathy. The following histological features were assessed: necrotic cells in cortex, hippocampus, and cerebellum, APP and GFAP staining pattern, and the presence of focal lesions and amphophilic globules. Twenty patients (10 males, 10 females) were identified, with age range between 2 weeks and 19 years.

The pathological findings were as follows: 10 cases had changes consistent with acute global hypoperfusion, 8 cases showed features consistent with chronic global hypoperfusion, 4 cases presented focal white matter necrosis (2 with intra-vascular emboli), and 16 cases showed diffuse moderate to severe gliosis, including 7 cases with amphophilic globules. Subarachnoid hemorrhages were present in 5 cases, subdural hemorrhage in 4 cases, intra-ventricular hemorrhage in 2 cases, and germinal matrix hemorrhage in 1 case.

In conclusion, diffuse gliosis is the prominent pathological feature in CHD cases. Most of the pathological changes are known to occur in cerebral hypoperfusion regardless of primary cause. Better techniques to improve cerebral perfusion are warranted in the management of these patients.


congenital heart disease, cerebral hypoperfusion, diffuse gliosis, brain pathology, autopsy

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