, Volume 25, Issue 1, pp 1-17,
Open Access This content is freely available online to anyone, anywhere at any time.

The long-term follow-up of patients with a congenital diaphragmatic hernia: a broad spectrum of morbidity

Abstract

Congenital diaphragmatic hernia (CDH) is a life-threatening anomaly with a mortality rate of approximately 40–50%, depending on case selection. It has been suggested that new therapeutic modalities such as nitric oxide (NO), high frequency oxygenation (HFO) and extracorporal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) might decrease mortality associated with pulmonary hypertension and the sequelae of artificial ventilation. When these new therapies indeed prove to be beneficial, a larger number of children with severe forms of CDH might survive, resulting in an increase of CDH-associated complications and/or consequences. In follow-up studies of infants born with CDH, many complications including pulmonary damage, cardiovascular disease, gastro-intestinal disease, failure to thrive, neurocognitive defects and musculoskeletal abnormalities have been described. Long-term pulmonary morbidity in CDH consists of obstructive and restrictive lung function impairments due to altered lung structure and prolonged ventilatory support. CDH has also been associated with persistent pulmonary vascular abnormalities, resulting in pulmonary hypertension in the neonatal period. Long-term consequences of pulmonary hypertension are unknown. Gastro-esophageal reflux disease (GERD) is also an important contributor to overall morbidity, although the underlying mechanism has not been fully understood yet. In adult CDH survivors incidence of esophagitis is high and even Barrett’s esophagus may ensue. Yet, in many CDH patients a clinical history compatible with GERD seems to be lacking, which may result in missing patients with pathologic reflux disease. Prolonged unrecognized GERD may eventually result in failure to thrive. This has been found in many young CDH patients, which may also be caused by insufficient intake due to oral aversion and increased caloric requirements due to pulmonary morbidity. Neurological outcome is determined by an increased risk of perinatal and neonatal hypoxemia in the first days of life of CDH patients. In patients treated with ECMO, the incidence of neurological deficits is even higher, probably reflecting more severe hypoxemia and the risk of ECMO associated complications. Many studies have addressed the substantial impact of the health problems described above, on the overall well-being of CDH patients, but most of them concentrate on the first years after repair and only a few studies focus on the health-related quality of life in CDH patients. Considering the scattered data indicating substantial morbidity in long-term survivors of CDH, follow-up studies that systematically assess long-term sequelae are mandatory. Based on such studies a more focused approach for routine follow-up programs may be established.