Current Environment:

Thanks to medical advances, children born with a congenital heart defect now usually survive into adulthood, and often enjoy relatively healthy lives. However, children with a history of heart disease are more likely than other children to have developmental, behavioral, or learning challenges. They sometimes have problems with:

  • feeding and sleeping
  • language
  • motor skills
  • social skills
  • behavior
  • learning
  • attention and executive functions
  • anxiety or depression
  • family stress
  • transition to adulthood

Jane W. Newburger, MD, MPH, of Boston Children's Hospital's Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program and Janice Ware, PhD, speak about the long-term view after pediatric open-heart surgery.

At the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program, we help children with congenital heart defects thrive, not just survive. We use an early detection model to:

  • identify developmental challenges as soon as possible
  • develop customized treatment plans
  • intervene quickly and effectively

The program uses a compassionate, family centered approach to diagnose and treat neurodevelopmental disorders. We partner with each family's local pediatrician to develop a transparent approach to care. Informed by cutting-edge research, our clinicians develop an individualized treatment program for each child.

As a part of Boston Children’s Hospital, we benefit from world-class talent across many specialties. Our experienced clinicians understand that children with congenital heart disease need care and support that extends beyond their cardiovascular health. Our team collaborates closely with Boston Children’s specialists in Cardiology, Cardiac Surgery, Developmental Medicine, Genetics, Neurology, Psychiatry, and Radiology to provide the highest standard of care in every area. We work closely with families, schools, and other providers in the community to coordinate children’s treatment plans.

The program helps children reach their potential and supports caregivers in meeting their children’s needs.

We meet with children and their families while inpatient in their hospital rooms or on an outpatient basis in our clinics in Boston and Brookline.

Who are our patients?

The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program serves children with a wide range of complex cardiac conditions and genetic syndromes. We see children during their inpatient stays and after discharge in our outpatient clinic. Our patients range in age from birth to 24 years, and we also conduct prenatal consultations. Most of our patients have had heart surgery as babies, though some acquire their heart conditions later in life.

Not sure if your child qualifies for Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program services? Our coordinators will be happy to talk with you. Please call 617-355-3401 for assistance.

Why choose the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program?

The Boston Children's Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program is part of the #1-ranked children's hospital in the U.S. Our program serves children with congenital heart disease, and the people who love and care for them. We support patients throughout childhood and into early adulthood by providing:

  • neurodevelopmental assessment
  • school consultation
  • short-term treatment

As leaders in the field of cardiac neurodevelopment, the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program follows guidelines put forth by the American Heart Association, and we provide cardiac patients with the neurodevelopmental care they need.

Our history

In 2003, a Boston Children’s Hospital research team led by Jane Newburger, MD, MPH, and David Bellinger, PhD, published the Boston Circulatory Arrest Trial. They demonstrated for the first time that children with complex congenital heart disease are at higher risk for neurodevelopmental problems. Their research made it clear that children with complex congenital heart defect require more than just excellent cardiac care; they also need comprehensive developmental care throughout childhood and early adulthood.

In response to this need, Bellinger, Newburger, and Janice Ware, PhD, founded the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program in 2008. They assembled a team of experts from the fields of cardiovascular surgery, genetics, education, cardiology, neurology, psychology, and pediatric neuropsychology. This team works together to provide innovative developmental care within a compassionate, family centered environment.