Wray, J., Long, T., Radley-Smith, R. and Yacoub, M.
Returning to school after heart or heart-lung transplantation: how well do children adjust
Transplantation, 72, (1), .
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BACKGROUND: Up to 40% of children and adolescents with chronic illness experience school-related problems, including learning difficulties and problems in social adjustment and peer relationships. Despite the life-threatening nature of heart and heart-lung transplantation and the severity of illness, which results in the necessity for surgery, there is little information on the school performance of children after transplantation. METHODS: Eighty-one children and adolescents were assessed with regard to their academic attainments and behavior at school at regular intervals after heart (n=47) or heart-lung (n=34) transplantation and comparisons made with a group of healthy children. RESULTS: Cognitive ability and performance on academic attainments were within the normal range and did not change significantly as a function of time since transplant. However, performance was at a significantly lower level than that of the healthy children. Although the prevalence of behavior problems was only 8% at 6 months posttransplant, at 3 years, it had increased to 29% and, at 5 years, it was still 27%. Children with an initial diagnosis of congenital heart disease had more academic and behavioral difficulties than those with either cardiomyopathy or cystic fibrosis. CONCLUSIONS: A significant number of children who had undergone successful transplantation experienced difficulties at school. Contrary to expectations, educational problems were more prevalent in the medium term, rather than short term, after transplant. Initial diagnosis was a salient factor in posttransplant psychological functioning at school. Early intervention and close liaison with schools is indicated to reduce psychological morbidity and enhance adaptation within the school environment.
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