Severe congenital heart defects: incidence, causes and time trends of preoperative mortality in Norway.
Severe congenital heart defects (CHDs) still represent one of the main causes of infant death. The risk factors associated with cardiac surgery and postoperative mortality are well known. We aimed to describe the rates, causes and time trends of mortality before surgery-including termination of pregnancies and palliative care-in fetuses and children below 2 years of age with severe CHDs.Data concerning all 789 345 pregnancies in Norway from 2004 to 2016 were retrieved from the Medical Birth Registry of Norway, the Oslo University Hospital’s Clinical Registry for Congenital Heart Defects, the Norwegian Cause of Death Registry, the National Registry, Statistics Norway, autopsy reports and medical records. When including termination of pregnancy and stillbirths, the number of fetuses and children with severe CHDs that did not reach the age of 2 years was 31%. Mortality among the 2359 live-born infants with severe CHDs was 10%, of whom 58% died before surgery. Of the preoperative deaths, 81% died in a palliative care setting, and comorbidity and univentricular CHDs were common among these infants. Together, palliative care and termination of pregnancy accounted for 86% of deaths in cases of severe CHDs, and this proportion increased during the study period (annual percent changes 1.3, 95% CI 0.4 to 2.1, p<0.001), mainly due to an increased termination rate.Termination of pregnancy accounted for the majority of the deaths in fetuses and children with severe CHDs. Among live-born children, most preoperative deaths occurred in a palliative care setting and were strongly related to comorbidities and/or univentricular hearts.