Affect and behavior in patients with complex congenital heart disease

behavior in patients with complex congenital heart disease:

The diagnosis, surgery, hospitalization and medical treatment of patients with congenital heart disease are stressful events that cause emotional impact.
For this reason, it may happen that alterations occur in the social and emotional development of the child.

Also, changes can be observed in the affective dimension of the other members of the family.
This does not mean that children with congenital heart disease cannot have normal emotional development.
However, it is recommended that some warning signs be monitored and that mental health professionals be consulted.
This allows us to support optimal development and prevent behavior and adaptation problems.

Emotional development:

Boys and girls in their first year of life reach important milestones in emotional development.
They learn to identify and express emotions; in fact, from a very early age they respond to the emotional gestures of adults.

For patients with heart disease, this process can be delayed due to the long hospital stay and the physical barriers imposed by this environment.

Also, some medications and procedures can lead to patients taking longer to learn to respond to emotions and, therefore, to express their own. However, with proper stimulation they can catch up. Some recommended activities are:
  • Talk to the baby looking at his face, this will allow him to identify gestures naturally.
  • Talk about your own emotions: “today I feel very happy to see you” “yesterday I was sad because I missed you a lot”.
  • Talk about the emotions of others: “your brother was very surprised to meet you” “sometimes he is afraid that something might happen to you”.
  • When reading stories, point out the emotions of the characters: "the cat seems happy, look that she is smiling"


As in the emotional dimension, boys and girls acquire patterns of social behavior during their first year. In the same way, this development can be affected by medical processes.

Some of the things that babies learn to do are: greet, receive and follow commands, understand and follow routines, and play.
To stimulate social development it is recommended:

1- Promote the development of habits:

establish a routine of bathing, feeding, playing and sleeping.
Give orders and give feedback: establish small rules of behavior for the baby; congratulate him when he does and get his attention when he doesn't. For example: “Pick up that toy” “Okay, that's it” “You must hand me the toy when I tell you”.

2- Dedicate time for the game:

play in short periods several times a day different types of games.
This favors the understanding of rules and also promotes independence and communication skills.

3- Say NO:

Babies need to understand early on that they can't do everything they want. Parents and other caregivers should say "No" emphatically when the baby does something wrong.

For example, there are children who, while learning to control their strength, hit others in the face. In this case, the word no must be said, in a serious way.
This is how boys and girls learn limits and rules.

4- If possible, allow interaction with other children:

in the case of patients with heart disease, it is suggested to ask the pediatrician when it is possible to carry out this activity.
Also, ask how to keep the baby safe while socializing.

Warning signs:

Although, due to the medical process, the baby may be delayed, it is important to monitor the following:
  • Lack of response to emotions, despite stimulation.
  • Constant crying and irritability.
  • Shouting tantrums and persistent difficulty following instructions and rules.
  • aggressive behaviors.
  • Difficulty playing and interacting with others.
  • Lack of interest in the game or in people in general.
In these cases, pediatricians should be consulted to establish the course of action to follow.