An International Collaboration to Create a Brain MRI Atlas for Infants with Congenital Heart Defects

Principal Investigator(s):

  • Daniel J. Licht, MD
  • James Gee, MD
  • Children's Hospital of Philadelphia
  • Philadephia, PA

Lay Summary:

Congenital heart defects (CHD) are among the most common birth defects in humans, affecting 8 per 1000 live births (~30-40,000 children each year in the U.S.) with one-third, or 10,000 children, requiring surgical intervention in the first weeks of life. As survival of infant heart surgery improves, it has been increasingly recognized that over 50% of survivors suffer significant learning disability and behavior disorders. Brain injury both before and after infant heart surgery is common and is the subject of investigation at several institutions worldwide. Unfortunately the generalization of study findings from each center is hampered by a lack of a consensus injury classification system and the lack of a common framework to effectively compare data on brain maturation and injury prevalence. Now, through a large multicenter collaboration (7 national and international research institutions) a number of leading investigators have committed to contributing all of their existing pre-operative infant brain MRIs that were acquired as part of a study protocol. This collective commitment consists of over 500 brain MRIs. From this large database, the investigators plan to develop a pre-operative brain MRI template that is specific to this population of infants with CHD. Such a template would provide the scaffolding upon which consensus definitions of pre-operative injury could be reached. Further, this atlas would allow further study on regional brain volumes, brain maturation and injury localization/severity. Such an atlas, and tools developed specifically for this atlas, would be made publically available and serve as the ‘ground truth’ for future studies and the keystone for multi-institutional neuroprotection studies in this population.

Daniel Licht, MD