Girl with Down syndrome

RCSI study provides insight into why babies with Down syndrome experience heart and lung problems

  • Research

Heart and lung conditions are common in babies born with Down syndrome and can contribute to the requirement for intensive care and longer hospital admissions.

A study from RCSI has gained new insights into changes in heart function and blood pressure in the lungs of babies born with Down syndrome.

Published in the Journal of the American Society of Echocardiography, the study is the first of its kind to follow babies with Down syndrome over the first two years of age to investigate heart function and increased blood pressure in the blood vessels in their lungs.

Seventy babies with Down syndrome were followed in this study; 48 babies had congenital heart disease and 22 did not. The results from the babies with Down syndrome were compared to 60 babies without Down syndrome. All babies enrolled in the study underwent a heart scan (echocardiogram) to assess heart function at six months, one year and two years of age.

This research found that the babies with Down syndrome have impaired changes in heart function and blood pressure in the lungs over the first two years of age.

Importantly, there were no differences in heart function between those babies with Down syndrome who had congenital heart disease compared to those without over the study period. This is a significant finding and indicates that all babies with Down syndrome should have their heart function and blood pressure in their lungs monitored during childhood.

The research was funded by the Health Research Board Ireland and the National Children's Research Centre. It was conducted by RCSI in collaboration with the Rotunda, Coombe and National Maternity Hospitals in Dublin; the Department of Paediatric Cardiology, Children's Health at Crumlin Hospital, Dublin; Department of Paediatrics and Child Health, Trinity College Dublin, Boston Children's Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts, USA.

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