Research has shown that children with CHD are at an increased risk for developmental delays, learning differences, and behavioral concerns, especially if they were born "blue" or needed open heart surgery before their first birthday.

At Arkansas Children's Hospital, we want your child to survive congenital heart disease (CHD) and thrive in all areas of their life. Our Cardiac Neurodevelopment Program (CNP) works with your family and your child's Cardiology team to develop an individualized developmental plan for your child. Development plans may include assessments or screenings of your child's cognitive, developmental, and behavioral strengths and weaknesses. Our CNP team will follow your child from birth to high school and will work with you to identify areas where your child may need extra support and help you get the resources they need to succeed.

Contact the CNP

If you have questions, would like more information, or would like to schedule an appointment with the Cardiac Neurodevelopment Program, please get in touch with us at:

Phone: 501-364-1479
Fax: 501-978-6408
1 Children's Way, Slot 209
Little Rock, AR 72202

Please be aware that your child must be followed by Cardiology in order to be seen in our program.

Neurodevelopment is the word used to describe how the brain makes connections that help us learn, focus, develop social skills, etc. Your brain makes these connections all the way until early adulthood, and heart defects can affect with the way the connections are made.

The American Heart Association (AHA) and the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) recommend developmental or neuropsychological testing for all children with high-risk congenital heart disease. Even if your child is meeting all of their milestones when they are young, they may have difficulties with learning, thinking, or behavior as they age.

Evaluation is recommended for children who:

  • Had open heart surgery as a newborn or infant
  • Have a heart condition that causes decreased oxygen levels (cyanotic heart lesions) – even if this is repaired and your child now has normal oxygen levels. 

OR if your child has CHD and any of the following:

  • Prematurity (<37 weeks)
  • Developmental Delay
  • Genetic Syndrome associated with Developmental Delays
  • History of mechanical support (ECMO or VAD use)
  • Heart Transplant
  • Cardiopulmonary Resuscitation (CPR/Code)
  • A hospital stay longer than two (2) weeks after cardiac surgery
  • Perioperative seizures related to cardiac surgery
  • Abnormalities on neuroimaging

If your child does not meet the high-risk criteria, but you have concerns about their development, please discuss your concerns with your cardiologist.

Not every child who has CHD will have neurodevelopmental problems.

Some children may have delays that are noticed early on. In infants through pre-k, this may look like this:

  • Gross Motor Delays (crawling/walking)
  • Difficulty with Fine Motor Skills (drawing/writing)
  • Language Delays
  • Poor attention
  • Difficulty managing emotions and behavior
  • Less socially and emotionally mature than other children their age
  • Feeding
  • Sleeping

They may need physical, speech, occupational, or feeding therapy to help with this.

Some children may only have delays showing up once they start school. Some children may have difficulties learning more complex information, where their brain has to work quickly to process it. This may look like difficulty with:

  • Attention
  • Memory
  • Organization and planning
  • Reading and math
  • Visual-spatial skills
  • Social skills

Learn more about supporting development in children with congenital heart disease.

Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative (CNOC) logo

Arkansas Children’s Hospital is a member of the Cardiac Neurodevelopment Outcome Collaborative (CNOC). CNOC is a collaborative of clinicians, researchers, patients, and families from across the world working together to address these challenges and improve neurodevelopment, mental health, and quality of life for people of all ages and stages with pediatric and congenital heart disease

To learn more about CNOC, visit

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