Waitlist Outcomes for Children With Congenital Heart Disease: Lessons Learned From Over 5000 Heart Transplant Listings in the United States

Document Type

Journal Article

Publication Date



Journal of cardiac failure




Congenital heart disease; outcomes research; policy changes; transplant; waitlist survival


BACKGROUND: We evaluated the impact of pediatric heart-allocation policy changes over time and the approval of the Berlin ventricular assist device (VAD) on waitlist (WL) outcomes for children with congenital heart disease (CHD). METHODS: The Scientific Registry of Transplant Recipients database was evaluated to include all children (age < 18) with CHD and cardiomyopathy (CMP) on the WL between 1999 and 2019, divided into 4 eras: Era 1 (1999-2008); Era 2 (2009-2011); Era 3 (2012-2016); and Era 4 (2016-2019). WL characteristics and survival outcomes were evaluated for patients with CHD over time and were compared to those with CMP listed currently (Era 4). RESULTS: We included 5185 children with CHD on the WL during the study period; 1999 (39%) were listed in Era 1; 693 (13%) in Era 2; 1196 (23%) in Era 3; and 1297 (25%) in Era 4. Compared to the CHD WL in eras 1 and 2, those in Era 4 were less likely to be infants (48% vs 49% vs 43%), on mechanical ventilation (30% vs 26% vs 19%), on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (15% vs 9.7% vs 6.2%), and were more likely to be on a VAD (2.4% vs 2.2% vs 6.0%) (P < .05 for all). WL survival improved in children with CHD from Era 1 to Era 4 (P < .001). However, in Era 4, children with CHD had lower WL survival than those with CMP (P < .001). CONCLUSION: Children with CHD are increasingly being listed with less advanced heart failure, and they have had improved WL survival over time; however, WL outcomes remain inferior to those with CMP. Advances in pediatric medical and VAD therapy may improve future WL outcomes.