Executive functions in children with heart disease: A systematic review and meta-analysis

William M. Jackson, Nicholas Davis, Johanna Calderon, Jennifer J. Lee, Nicole Feirsen, David C. Bellinger, Lena S. Sun

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


Context: People with CHD are at increased risk for executive functioning deficits. Meta-analyses of these measures in CHD patients compared to healthy controls have not been reported. Objective: To examine differences in executive functions in individuals with CHD compared to healthy controls. Data sources: We performed a systematic review of publications from 1 January, 1986 to 15 June, 2020 indexed in PubMed, CINAHL, EMBASE, PsycInfo, Web of Science, and the Cochrane Library. Study selection: Inclusion criteria were (1) studies containing at least one executive function measure; (2) participants were over the age of three. Data extraction: Data extraction and quality assessment were performed independently by two authors. We used a shifting unit-of-analysis approach and pooled data using a random effects model. Results: The search yielded 61,217 results. Twenty-eight studies met criteria. A total of 7789 people with CHD were compared with 8187 healthy controls. We found the following standardised mean differences: -0.628 (-0.726, -0.531) for cognitive flexibility and set shifting, -0.469 (-0.606, -0.333) for inhibition, -0.369 (-0.466, -0.273) for working memory, -0.334 (-0.546, -0.121) for planning/problem solving, -0.361 (-0.576, -0.147) for summary measures, and -0.444 (-0.614, -0.274) for reporter-based measures (p < 0.001). Limitations: Our analysis consisted of cross-sectional and observational studies. We could not quantify the effect of collinearity. Conclusions: Individuals with CHD appear to have at least moderate deficits in executive functions. Given the growing population of people with CHD, more attention should be devoted to identifying executive dysfunction in this vulnerable group.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCardiology in the Young
StateAccepted/In press - 2021


  • CHD
  • cognition
  • executive function
  • meta-analysis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pediatrics, Perinatology, and Child Health
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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