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(EUROCAT) Working Group

Helen Dolk, Maria Loane, Ester Garne and a European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies
Congenital Heart Defects in Europe: Prevalence and Perinatal Mortality, 2000 to 2005
Print ISSN: 0009-7322. Online ISSN: 1524-4539
Copyright © 2011 American Heart Association, Inc. All rights reserved.
is published by the American Heart Association, 7272 Greenville Avenue, Dallas, TX 75231 Circulation
doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.958405
2011;123:841-849; originally published online February 14, 2011; Circulation. 
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Congenital Heart Disease
Congenital Heart Defects in Europe
Prevalence and Perinatal Mortality, 2000 to 2005
Helen Dolk, DrPh; Maria Loane, MA; Ester Garne, MD; and a European Surveillance of Congenital
Anomalies (EUROCAT) Working Group
Background—This study determines the prevalence of Congenital Heart Defects (CHD), diagnosed prenatally or in
infancy, and fetal and perinatal mortality associated with CHD in Europe.
Methods and Results—Data were extracted from the European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies central database for
29 population-based congenital anomaly registries in 16 European countries covering 3.3 million births during the
period 2000 to 2005. CHD cases (nϭ26 598) comprised live births, fetal deaths from 20 weeks gestation, and
terminations of pregnancy for fetal anomaly (TOPFA). The average total prevalence of CHD was 8.0 per 1000 births,
and live birth prevalence was 7.2 per 1000 births, varying between countries. The total prevalence of nonchromosomal
CHD was 7.0 per 1000 births, of which 3.6% were perinatal deaths, 20% prenatally diagnosed, and 5.6% TOPFA.
Severe nonchromosomal CHD (ie, excluding ventricular septal defects, atrial septal defects, and pulmonary valve
stenosis) occurred in 2.0 per 1000 births, of which 8.1% were perinatal deaths, 40% were prenatally diagnosed, and 14%
were TOPFA (TOPFA range between countries 0% to 32%). Live-born CHD associated with Down syndrome occurred
in 0.5 per 1000 births, with Ͼ4-fold variation between countries.
Conclusion—Annually in the European Union, we estimate 36 000 children are live born with CHD and 3000 who are
diagnosed with CHD die as a TOFPA, late fetal death, or early neonatal death. Investing in primary prevention and
pathogenetic research is essential to reduce this burden, as well as continuing to improve cardiac services from in utero
to adulthood. (Circulation. 2011;123:841-849.)
Key Words: congenital heart defects

epidemiology

Europe

prevalence

perinatal mortality
C
ongenital heart defects (CHD) account for nearly one
third of babies with major congenital anomalies diag-
nosed prenatally or in infancy in Europe.
1,2
Great advances in
treatment in recent decades have led to a decrease in infant
mortality and an increase in children and adults with
CHD.
3,4,5
Pressure on pediatric and adult services for CHD
survivors has been widely documented, as well as the need
for special management when CHD survivors themselves
become pregnant.
6
There is also increasing recognition of
neurodevelopmental problems in childhood among CHD
survivors.
7
Clinical Perspective on p 849
Prenatal ultrasound screening for the detection of congen-
ital anomalies is now offered to the majority of women in
most countries of Europe, although the prenatal screening
policies and prenatal detection rates vary greatly.
8
Except for
the most severe CHD, prenatal diagnosis may improve
treatment success by allowing appropriate preparation for
birth and the neonatal period,
9–11
and methods of fetal cardiac
intervention are under development.
12
For severe CHD,
prenatal diagnosis may lead to a decision to terminate the
pregnancy. There is a need for updated CHD prevalence data
taking these developments into account.
13
Primary prevention measures currently include rubella
vaccination, good diabetic control, and avoidance of known
teratogenic drugs such as some antiepileptic drugs and
isotretinoin.
14
There is also increasing evidence that folic acid
may be protective,
14–16
and recent recommendations include
avoiding contact with influenza and febrile illnesses and
avoidance of exposure to organic solvents.
14
There is growing
evidence of a link with maternal obesity
18,19
and limited
evidence of a link with maternal smoking and exposure to air
pollution.
14
Primary prevention is particularly difficult be-
cause the heart may be fully formed before the mother knows
she is pregnant and many pregnancies are unplanned. Moni-
toring of the prevalence of CHD is needed to determine the
overall impact of changes in risk factors and the implemen-
tation of primary preventive measures based on current and
future research evidence.
Received April 4, 2010; accepted November 3, 2010.
From the EUROCAT Central Registry, Centre for Maternal, Fetal and Infant Research, Institute of Nursing Research, University of Ulster, UK (H.D.,
M.L.); and Department of Pediatrics, Hospital Lillebaelt, Kolding, Denmark (E.G.).
The online-only Data Supplement is available with this article at http://circ.ahajournals.org/cgi/content/full/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.958405/DC1.
Correspondence to Helen Dolk, Professor of Epidemiology and Health Services Research, University of Ulster, Jordanstown Campus, Shore Rd, Co
Antrim, BT370QB, Northern Ireland, UK. E-mail h.dolk@ulster.ac.uk
© 2011 American Heart Association, Inc.
Circulation is available at http://circ.ahajournals.org DOI: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.958405
841 by guest on April 16, 2014 http://circ.ahajournals.org/ Downloaded from
European Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies (EUROCAT) is
a population-based surveillance system based on a network
of congenital anomaly registers in Europe covering more
than one quarter of births in 20 European countries.
1,19
The
great advantage of such a population-based system is that
prevalence can be estimated without biases caused by referral
of high-risk pregnancies or babies between hospitals, and
ascertainment includes fetal and early neonatal deaths as well
as terminations of pregnancy for fetal anomaly (TOPFA)
after prenatal diagnosis who do not reach pediatric cardiology
referral centers.
In this article, we present recent EUROCAT data on the
prevalence of CHD in Europe, diagnosed prenatally or in
infancy, and on the outcome of pregnancy in terms of fetal
and early postnatal survival. This information is needed as a
baseline from which to monitor future progress in primary
prevention; to monitor the impact of termination of preg-
nancy for fetal anomaly on prevalence; to plan for high-
quality services; and to allow individual regions to compare
their rates with the European average and range. This article
therefore investigates CHD from a public health rather than a
clinical perspective.
Methods
Data were extracted from the EUROCAT database, which is fully
described elsewhere
20
and was last updated in February 2009.
Twenty-nine population-based registries in 16 European countries
(including 3 non–European Union [EU] countries) contributed data
(Table 1). The total population coverage for 2000 to 2005 was 3.3
million births. From 12% to 100% of annual births in each country
were covered by Ն1 EUROCAT registries (Table 1).
Registries contributing individual-anonymized case data to the
EUROCAT central database at least as recent as 2004 were included.
Registries use multiple sources of information to ascertain cases in
order to cover all types of cases (live birth [LB], late fetal death, and
termination of pregnancy; surgical and nonsurgical; and with and
without additional major non-CHD anomalies). Sources, depending
on registry,
3,21–27
include maternity, neonatal, and pediatric records;
fetal medicine, cytogenetic, pathology, and medical genetics records;
specialist services including pediatric cardiology; and hospital dis-
charge and child health records. Twenty-one of the registries
(covering 2.6 million births) included in the study ascertained cases
of CHD diagnosed up to at least 1 year of life. The exceptions are
noted as a footnote to Table 1.
Cases of CHD occurring in LBs, late fetal deaths/stillbirths from
20 weeks of gestation (FDs), and TOPFA after prenatal diagnosis at
any gestational age were included.
All cases were coded to the International Classification of Dis-
eases (ICD) version 9 or 10 with 1-digit BPA extension.
28,29
Cases
Table 1. Population* (No. EUROCAT Registries, Births, Percentage National Coverage) and Total Prevalence† (95% CI) of All,
Nonchromosomal and Nonchromosomal SI and SII CHDs per 1000 Births by Country, 2000 to 2005
Countries*
Registries,*
n
Total Births, 2000
to 2005, in
Registry Regions,
n
Annual National
Births Covered,
2005, %
All CHD Nonchromosomal CHD
Nonchromosomal CHD, SI
and SII
No.
Prevalence per 1000
Births (95% CI) No.
Prevalence per 1000
Births (95% CI) No.
Prevalence per 1,000
Births (95% CI)
Austria 1 62 667 13 960 15.32 (14.37–16.32) 871 13.90 (12.99–14.85) 163 2.60 (2.22–3.03)
Belgium 2 182 467 27 1212 6.64 (6.27–7.03) 1058 5.80 (5.45–6.16) 343 1.88 (1.69–2.09)
Croatia‡ 1 33 933 14 182 5.36 (4.61–6.20) 161 4.74 (4.04–5.54) 41 1.21 (0.87–1.64)
Denmark 1 32 003 8 291 9.09 (8.08–10.20) 265 8.28 (7.31–9.34) 65 2.03 (1.57–2.59)
France‡ 3 343 715 8 2853 8.30 (8.00–8.61) 2447 7.12 (6.84–7.41) 879 2.56 (2.39–2.73)
Germany‡ 2 124 952 3 1457 11.66 (11.07–12.28) 1315 10.52 (9.96–11.11) 269 2.15 (1.90–2.43)
Ireland 3 215 021 63 1423 6.62 (6.28–6.97) 1083 5.04 (4.74–5.35) 476 2.21 (2.02–2.42)
Italy‡ 3 431 727 15 2944 6.82 (6.58–7.07) 2744 6.36 (6.12–6.60) 754 1.75 (1.62–1.88)
Malta 1 23 668 100 348 14.70 (13.20–16.33) 301 12.72 (11.32–14.24) 51 2.15 (1.60–2.83)
Netherlands 1 119 104 10 732 6.15 (5.71–6.61) 639 5.37 (4.96–5.80) 272 2.28 (2.02–2.57)
Norway 1 346 838 100 3538 10.20 (9.87–10.54) 3236 9.33 (9.01–9.66) 611 1.76 (1.63–1.91)
Poland 1 206 170 9 2304 11.18 (10.72–11.64) 2116 10.26 (9.83–10.71) 297 1.44 (1.28–1.61)
Spain‡ 2 194 234 7 1080 5.56 (5.23–5.90) 904 4.65 (4.36–4.97) 399 2.05 (1.86–2.27)
Switzerland 1 42 874 10 576 13.43 (12.36–14.58) 512 11.94 (10.93–13.02) 105 2.45 (2.00–2.97)
Ukraine‡ 1 25 835 6 201 7.78 (6.74–8.93) 180 6.97 (5.99–8.06) 46 1.78 (1.30–2.38)
UK‡ 5 951 001 26 6497 6.83 (6.67–7.00) 5516 5.80 (5.65–5.96) 1974 2.08 (1.99–2.17)
Total 29 3 336 209 13 26 598 7.97 (7.88–8.07) 23 348 7.00 (6.91–7.09) 6745 2.02 (1.97–2.07)
SI and SII include All Nonchromosomal CHD except ventricular septal defects, atrial septal defects, pulmonary valve stenoses, and unclassified severity defects.
*Registries per country (2000 to 2005 unless otherwise stated) were: Austria: Styria; Belgium: Antwerp, Hainaut; Croatia: Zagreb; Denmark: Odense; France: Ile
de la Reunion (2002 to 2005), Paris, Strasbourg (2000 to 2004); Germany: Mainz, Saxony-Anhalt; Ireland: Cork and Kerry (2000 to 2004), Dublin, Southeast Ireland;
Italy: Emilia Romagna, Sicily (2000 to 2004), Tuscany; The Netherlands: Northern; Poland: Wielkopolska; Spain: Barcelona, Basque Country; Switzerland: Vaud; Ukraine
(2005 only); UK: East Midlands and South Yorkshire, Northern England, Thames Valley, Wales, Wessex.
†Total prevalence includes LBs, fetal deaths from 20 weeks and TOPFAs. Prevalence tables for CHD subgroups can be found at http://www.eurocat-network.eu/
ACCESSPREVALENCEDATA/PrevalenceTables.
‡Twenty-one registries ascertained cases of CHD diagnosed until at least 1 year of life. Exceptions were Croatia (1 week), Paris (discharge from maternity or
neonatal unit), Mainz (1 week, but all newborns submitted to standard registry examination and followed up if murmur detected), Barcelona (3 days), and Ukraine
(1 month). Ascertainment in Emilia Romagna and Thames Valley was more systematic for cases diagnosed in the first week, and Wessex ascertained cardiac cases
diagnosed after 1 week only if they had surgery.
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can have up to 9 syndrome or malformation codes. The ICD codes
defining CHD were Q20–26 (ICD10) and 745, 746, and 7470 to
7474 (ICD9-BPA). Cases of patent ductus arteriosus in preterm
babies (Ͻ37 weeks) and patent foramen ovale as the only CHD were
excluded.
20
EUROCAT defines 16 standard subgroups of CHD.
20
We used a
previously defined hierarchical severity ranking
30
based on the
perinatal mortality rate for each of these subgroups among nonchro-
mosomal cases (see online-only Data Supplement Figure I), with 3
classes, from I (high perinatal mortality) to III (low perinatal
mortality):
Severity I (SI): single ventricle, hypoplastic left heart, hypoplastic
right heart, Ebstein anomaly, and tricuspid atresia
Severity II (SII): pulmonary valve atresia, common arterial truncus,
atrioventricular septal defects, aortic valve atresia/stenosis, trans-
position of great vessels, tetralogy of Fallot, total anomalous
pulmonary venous return, and coarctation of aorta, without addi-
tional CHD subgroups classified as severity I. The following
anomalies not classified to any of the 16 EUROCAT subgroups
were added to SII (finally accounting for 6% of SII cases): double
outlet right or left ventricle, discordant atrioventricular connec-
tion, Ivemark atrial isomerism, other abnormal cardiac connec-
tions, aortopulmonary window, cor triatriatum, subaortic valve
stenosis, malformations of coronary arteries, atresia of aorta and
interrupted aortic arch, supravalvular aortic stenosis, and abnormal
pulmonary venous connections.
Severity III (SIII): ventricular septal defect (VSD), atrial septal
defect, and pulmonary valve stenosis, without additional CHD
subgroups classified as SI or SII.
Eleven percent of all CHD cases where the ICD code was for a
poorly specified CHD of unknown severity or patent ductus arteri-
osus in term infants were not classified to a severity group. These
cases were included in counts relating to all CHD but not in severity
category counts.
Cases were classified according to the presence or absence of an
associated chromosomal anomaly (ICD10 codes Q90–93 and 96 to
99 excl Q936). Nonchromosomal cases were classified by the
presence or absence of an additional major non-CHD anomaly, the
latter labeled “isolated.”
Each case is counted once only in any given prevalence rate (ie,
prevalence is based on cases, not anomalies). Prevalence rates
averaged across Europe were calculated by adding up EUROCAT
regions across Europe, without extrapolation to country for partially
covered countries. Prevalence rates were calculated as:
LB prevalence rateϭ(No. LB cases)/(total births live and still )
FD prevalence rateϭ(No. FD cases)/(total births live and still )
TOPFA prevalence rateϭ(No. TOPFA)/(total births live and still )
Total prevalence rateϭLBϩFDϩTOPFA prevalence rate
We present TOPFA mainly as a prevalence per 1000 births rather
than as a proportion of all CHD cases because differences in
ascertainment of milder postneonatally diagnosed CHD can distort
proportions greatly. The “perinatal mortality” rate was defined as
(FD from 20 weeks gestationϩfirst week deaths)/
(total births live and still )
Data extracted for registered cases were date of birth, registry,
pregnancy outcome (LB, FD, or TOPFA), all diagnosed malforma-
tions and syndromes, age at diagnosis (defined as first suspicion of
any congenital anomaly, whether CHD or associated non-CHD
anomaly), and whether the neonate survived the first week of life.
Whether a LB/FD case had been prenatally diagnosed was not
recorded in the central database for 4 registries (see footnote to Table
2), which were excluded from analysis of prenatal diagnosis.
Confidence intervals (CIs) for prevalence rates were calculated in
StatsDirect statistical software version 2.7.7 (StatsDirect Ltd,
Cheshire, UK).
Results
All CHD Cases
The reported total prevalence of CHD in Europe was 8.0 per
1000 births (95% CI 7.9 to 8.1) based on 26 598 cases (Table
1), including LBs (89.7%), FDs (1.6%), and TOPFA (8.7%).
The range in total prevalence across countries was 5.36 to
15.32 per 1000, with 5 countries reporting prevalence Ͼ10
per 1000 (Table 1). The average LB prevalence was 7.2 per
1000 (95% CI 7.1 to 7.3).
Nonchromosomal CHD Cases
Eighty-eight percent of CHD were not associated with a
chromosomal anomaly, giving an average total prevalence of
7.0 per 1000 (95% CI 7.0 to 7.1), varying considerably
between countries (Table 1) and registries within countries
(Figure 1). Most were LBs (6.5 per 1000, Table 2), and 82%
were isolated CHD (Table 2). SIII cases were more than twice
as common as SI and SII combined (Table 2). The prevalence
of VSD without other associated CHD or non-CHD anoma-
lies was 1.9 per 1000.
Age at diagnosis was known for 66% of live-born non-
chromosomal CHD cases. Twenty-three percent of cases with
known age at diagnosis were diagnosed after 1 week of age:
8.3% 1 week to 1 month, 12.5% 1 month to 1 year, and 1.9%
after 1 year. This proportion was highest for the less severe
cases: 5.8% for SI, 15.5% for SII, and 26.2% for SIII.
Ascertainment of SIII cases diagnosed after 1 week of age, as
indicated by their prevalence, varied between registries (Fig-
ure 1). The 3 registries recording the highest prevalence of
SIII diagnosed after 1 week of 4 to 5 per 1000 (Figure 1) were
from the 3 countries recording the highest overall CHD
prevalence (Table 1). Average total SIII prevalence was 0.5
per 1000 births higher in the 21 registries with ascertainment
up to 1 year (4.68 per 1000) than the average for all registries
(4.18 per 1000, Table 2).
Perinatal mortality was 0.25 per 1000 births (95% CI 0.24
to 0.27, Table 2), varying from 0.07 in Italy to a range of 0.20
to 0.38 in all other countries except Ukraine at 0.93 per 1000
(Figure 2 and online-only Data Supplement Table I). SI and
SII contributed approximately a third each to CHD perinatal
deaths (Table 1) whereas SIII contributed 19%. CHD of
unclassified severity contributed disproportionately to CHD
perinatal mortality (16%) probably because of the lower level
of diagnostic specificity available from death records. Peri-
natal deaths were less likely to be isolated CHD (Table 2).
Prenatal Diagnosis and TOPFA for
Nonchromosomal Cases
A total of 20.2% of nonchromosomal CHD cases had prenatal
diagnosis of a congenital anomaly (Table 2, data from 25/29
registries), being the majority of SI (63.7%), nearly a third of
SII (or 40% of SI/SII combined), and less than one tenth of
SIII (Table 2). Prenatally diagnosed cases were less likely to
be isolated CHD, especially for SIII (Table 2). Prenatal
diagnosis proportions for SI/SII varied by country (Figure 3).
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A total of 31% of prenatally diagnosed nonchromosomal
CHD resulted in TOPFA (54.6% for SI, 27.5% for SII, and
15.9% for SIII, data from 25/29 registries), this proportion
also varying by country (Figure 3). TOPFA were less likely to
be isolated CHD than other prenatally diagnosed or non–
prenatally diagnosed cases, especially for SIII (Table 2).
TOPFA were more frequent than perinatal deaths, at 0.39
per 1000. This rate varied strongly between countries (Figure
2, online-only Data Supplement Table I): from 0 in Ireland,
Malta, and Poland to a maximum of 1.06 per 1000 in France
(Figure 2).
Chromosomal CHD Cases
Twelve percent of CHD cases were associated with chromo-
somal anomalies (7% Down Sydrome [DS], 2% Trisomy 18,
and 1% Trisomy 13), for an average total prevalence of 0.97
per 1000 births. In the study population, the total prevalence
of DS was 2.1 per 1000, of which 48.1% were TOPFA, and
the prevalence of DS among LBs was 1.0 per 1000 births. Of
these LB DS cases, 45% (nϭ1521) had a recorded CHD
(17.4% SI/SII, 23.8% SIII, and 3.8% unclassified severity),
giving a LB prevalence of Down syndrome with CHD of 0.46
per 1000 births (95% CI 0.43 to 0.48). Rates of LB Down
syndrome with CHD varied from Ͻ0.25 per 1000 in France,
Italy, and Switzerland to Ͼ1 per 1000 in Ireland and Malta
(Figure 4). A total of 1.2% of LB Down syndrome with CHD
died in the first week of life.
We estimate the contribution of Down syndrome with
CHD to the total pediatric CHD case load to vary from 3% to
4% (Italy, France, and Switzerland) to 15% to 19% (Ireland
and Malta), assuming an average nonchromosomal CHD LB
prevalence of 6.5 per 1000 for all countries.
Discussion
We found the total prevalence of CHD in Europe during 2000
to 2005 to be 8.0 per 1000 births, with variation between
countries and registries within countries, and LB prevalence
to be 7.2 per 1000 births. A review of 62 studies published in
2002
13
found a median LB prevalence of 7.5 per 1000, similar
to our study, with an interquartile range of 6.0 to 10.6 per
1000. Variation between the studies reviewed was mainly
explained by variation in the inclusion of small VSDs and
indication for echocardiography.
13
In our European popula-
tion, on the basis of diagnoses reached under normal health
service conditions, up to half of SIII cases, depending on
registry, were first detected after the first week of life, and the
prevalence estimate would be 0.5 per 1000 higher if registries
not ascertaining up to 1 year of life were excluded. However,
it is not possible to standardize comparisons between regions
or countries by using age at diagnosis in order to find “real”
underlying variation in prevalence, given that average age at
diagnosis itself varies according to the intensity of prenatal
and early neonatal screening and follow-up taking place in
each region. Moreover, even with complete ascertainment of
cases diagnosed up to 1 year of age, variation in prevalence
relating to echocardiography referral practice and registry
inclusion of smaller muscular cases that close spontaneously
would remain. During the decade preceding our study, an
increase in the prevalence of CHD, particularly SIII, was
reported in a number of European and other countries and
attributed mainly to diagnostic factors.
22,24,26,31
The total prevalence of severe (SI/SII) nonchromosomal
CHD cases in our population was 2.0 per 1000. These cases
are more uniformly ascertained and were mainly diagnosed
by the end of the first week of life, including a significant
proportion of prenatally diagnosed cases. To what extent
country variation in the rate of severe (SI/SII) CHD, the
highest rate being recorded in Austria, reflects variation in
risk factors requires further investigation. Recent evidence of
a decline in severe CHD in this decade,
15,32
including in
Table 2. No., Prevalence per 1,000 births (95% CI), and Proportion of Nonchromosomal CHD by Pregnancy Outcome, Whether CHD
was an Isolated Anomaly, and Whether Prenatally Diagnosed, in 29 European Registries, 2000 to 2005
Nonchromosomal CHD SI*
Outcome No.
Prevalence per 1000
Births (95% CI)
Total
Cases, %
Isolated Within
Category, % No.
Prevalence per 1000
Births (95% CI)
Total
Cases, %
Isolated Within
Category, %
Total 23348 7.00 (6.96–6.14) 100.0 82.4 1556 0.47 (0.44–0.49) 100.0 82.8
LBs 21749 6.52 (6.48–6.65) 93.2 84.6 973 0.29 (0.27–0.31) 62.5 86.1
Fetal
deaths
291 0.09 (0.08–0.10) 1.2 52.9 63 0.02 (0.02–0.02) 4.0 76.2
TOPFA 1308 0.39 (0.37–0.41) 5.6 52.4 520 0.16 (0.14–0.17) 33.4 77.5
First–week
deaths
554 0.17 (0.15–0.18) 2.4 63.2 191 0.06 (0.05–0.07) 12.3 83.2
Perinatal
deaths†
845 0.25 (0.24–0.27) 3.6 59.6 254 0.08 (0.07–0.09) 16.3 81.5
Prenatally
diagnosed‡
3041 1.27 (1.23–1.32) 20.2 58.3 698 0.29 (0.27–0.32) 63.7 77.8
*SI: single ventricle, hypoplastic left heart, hypoplastic right heart, Ebstein anomaly, tricuspid atresia. SII: mainly pulmonary valve atresia, common arterial truncus,
atrioventricular septal defects, aortic valve atresia/stenosis, transposition of great vessels, tetralogy of Fallot, total anomalous pulmonary venous return, coarctation
of aorta, and without additional CHD subgroups classified as SI. SIII: VSD, atrial septal defect, and pulmonary valve stenosis without additional CHD subgroups classified
as SI or SII.
†Perinatal deathsϭfetal deaths from 20 weeks gestationϩfirst week deaths.
‡Prenatal diagnosis of CHD and/or an associated congenital anomaly. Data excludes Norway, and UK: East Midlands and South Yorkshire, Northern England, and
Thames Valley.
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EUROCAT regions,
32
lends support to the potential for
variation between populations in severe CHD (and by impli-
cation less severe CHD) prevalence related to underlying risk
factors.
Our severity ranking was based on the proportion of
affected births that were perinatal deaths.
28
The division
between SI and SII on this basis corresponds to whether there
are 1 or 2 functioning ventricles. The division between SI/SII
and SIII corresponds well with the likelihood that surgery is
needed: data from 2 EUROCAT regions show that 80% of
isolated SI/SII cases require surgery (and a further 7% are too
severe for surgery), compared to 7% of SIII cases requiring
surgery.
30
The ranking is also pragmatic in that it is based on
ICD codes and preexisting EUROCAT subgroup classifica-
tions, without the need for further expert review to assess
combinations of codes or pediatric cardiology records as
All regs
UK E Mid & S York
UK Northern England
UK Thames Valley †
UK Wales
UK Wessex †
Ukraine †
All regs
Netherlands N
Norway
Poland Wielkopolska
Spain Barcelona †
Spain Basque Country
Switzerland Vaud
UK E Mid & S York
Ireland Dublin
Ireland SE
Italy Emilia Romagna †
Italy Sicily
Italy Tuscany
Malta
Netherlands N
SI/II
SIII <1 wk
SIII>1 week
France Ile de Reunion
France Paris †
France Strasbourg
Germany Mainz †
Germany Saxony Anhalt
Ireland Cork & Kerry
Ireland Dublin
SIII NK
Austria Styria
Belgium Antwerp
Belgium Hainaut
CroaƟa Zagreb †
Denmark Odense
France Ile de Reunion
0.00 2.00 4.00 6.00 8.00 10.00 12.00 14.00
Prevalence per 1,000 births
Figure 1. Total prevalence of nonchromosomal SI/SII/SIII congenital heart defects by severity grouping,* age at detection** of SIII
cases, and registry,† 2000 to 2005. *Severity is ranked from greatest severity (SI) to least severity (SIII) on the basis of perinatal mortal-
ity (see footnote to Table 2). Unclassified by severity are not included. **Age at which a congenital anomaly is first suspected, shown
only for SIII cases: Ͻ1 weekϭprenatally or up to 1 week of age; Ͼ1 week is 1 week to registration age limit; and NK, age at detection
not recorded in EUROCAT central database. †Registries with incomplete ascertainment after 1 week (see footnote to Table 1).
Table 2. Continued
SII* SIII*
No.
Prevalence per 1000
Births (95% CI)
Total
Cases, %
Isolated Within
Category, % No.
Prevalence per 1000
Births (95% CI)
Total
Cases, %
Isolated Within
Category, %
5189 1.56 (1.52–1.60) 100.0 78.6 13 960 4.18 (4.13–4.23) 100.0 85.5
4671 1.40 (1.36–1.44) 90.0 82.1 13 714 4.11 (4.06–4.20) 98.2 86.5
93 0.03 (0.02–0.03) 1.8 51.6 73 0.02 (0.02–0.03) 0.5 46.6
425 0.13 (0.12–0.14) 8.2 45.4 173 0.05 (0.04–0.06) 1.2 20.9
197 0.06 (0.05–0.07) 3.8 63.5 88 0.03 (0.02–0.03) 0.6 35.2
290 0.09 (0.08–0.10) 5.6 59.7 161 0.05 (0.04–0.06) 1.2 40.4
1115 0.47 (0.44–0.50) 32.1 64.2 775 0.32 (0.30–0.35) 8.6 38.2
Dolk et al Congenital Heart Defects in Europe 845
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would be needed for other classification schemes.
13,33,34
However, our SIII category combined VSD, atrial septal
defect, and pulmonary valve stenosis of all sizes because in
most cases we had no further specification. Therefore, we
have tended to underestimate the prevalence of the more
severe cardiac conditions with high mortality by including,
for example, large VSD without associated SI/SII defects in
SIII. These are most likely represented among the small
proportion of SIII cases that have surgery.
30
Efforts by
International Nomenclature Committee for Pediatric and
Congenital Heart Disease,
34
EUROCAT, and others to im-
prove the World Health Organization ICD11 coding system
for CHD are important for improving quality and compara-
bility of classifications and interpretability of CHD data in
future.
Twelve percent of CHD cases in the EUROCAT series
were chromosomal, the majority Down syndrome. Variation
in total prevalence of chromosomal CHD cases can be
explained by large differences in the maternal age profile of
European populations. However, ascertainment of CHD
among TOPFA for chromosomal anomaly is likely to be
incomplete, especially for early terminations. CHD may also
go undetected in perinatal deaths with chromosomal syn-
dromes without full autopsy. We therefore concentrated our
analysis of chromosomal cases on LBs. Approximately half
of live-born children with Down syndrome are usually
considered to have a cardiac defect, 45% in our data set. We
found 4-fold country variation in LB prevalence of Down
syndrome with CHD, which can be explained by differences
in maternal age profile of births together with differences in
prenatal detection and TOPFA rates for Down syndrome.
2,8,35
This needs to be taken into account in planning pediatric
cardiology services.
Microdeletions (such as 22q11.2) were included among
nonchromosomal cases in our study because testing for
microdeletions was variable across regions and registry cod-
ing of microdeletions was not yet standardized. The preva-
lence of CHD with 22q11.2 for 16 of the registers for the
same time period was 0.74 per 10 000, of which one third
were tetralogy of Fallot (Dr Diana Wellesley, BM, personal
communication). If extrapolated, this suggests that during this
period Ͻ1% of CHD cases had a diagnosed 22q11.2 microde-
letion, or 8% of tetralogy of Fallot. Microdeletion 22q11.2
has been estimated to be associated with up to 20% of some
severe cardiac defects such as truncus arteriosus and tetralogy
of Fallot in fully tested case series.
36
Most regions/countries reported prenatal detection rates
considerably less than those reported by tertiary centers,
37
demonstrating the value of population-based appraisal. Only
for SI cases were the majority (64%) prenatally diagnosed.
1.60
1 00
1.20
1.40
0

b
i
r
t
h
s
0.60
0.80
1.00
v
a
l
e
n
c
e

p
e
r

1
,
0
0
TOPFA
0 00
0.20
0.40
P
r
e
v
Perinatal mortality
0.00
Country Country
Figure 2. Perinatal mortality and termina-
tions of pregnancy for fetal anomaly
(TOPFA) associated with nonchromo-
somal congenital heart defects per 1000
births, by country, 2000 to 2005. Preva-
lence rates on which this Figure is based
are shown in Table I in the online-only
Data Supplement.
All regs
P l d
Spain
Switzerland
Ukraine
UK*
Ireland
Italy
Malta
Netherlands
Poland
SI/II PD - TOPFA
CroaƟa
Denmark
France
Germany
Ireland
SI/II PD - birth
0 10 20 30 40 50 60 70 80
Austria
Belgium
%%
Figure 3. Proportion of nonchromosomal
SI/SII congenital heart defect cases pre-
natally diagnosed (PD)* by pregnancy
outcome (terminations of pregnancy for
fetal anomaly [TOPFA] or birth), by coun-
try, 2000 to 2005. SI and SII include all
nonchromosomal CHD except ventricular
septal defects, atrial septal defects, pul-
monary valve stenoses, and unclassified
severity defects. *UK includes Wales and
Wessex data only.
846 Circulation March 1, 2011
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For SI cases, the majority (55%) of prenatal diagnoses led to
TOPFA, and thus TOPFA had a significant impact on
birth/LB prevalence. As CHD treatment success and quality
of life of CHD survivors improves, the number of CHD
TOPFA may decrease. Currently, CHD TOPFA prevalence in
countries, as represented by their EUROCAT coverage, falls
into 3 groups: the maximum of 1.1 per 1000 births in France,
a group of countries at 0.3 to 0.5 per 1000 (Italy, Spain, UK,
Germany, and Switzerland), and all other countries at Ͻ0.3
per 1000.
Perinatal mortality, mainly first week mortality, associated
with CHD is significant in relation to overall perinatal
mortality, despite a fall in infant mortality due to CHD during
the 1990s.
23,26,38,39
In the EU in 2004, about one quarter of
early neonatal deaths were due to congenital anomalies, and
of these, in EUROCAT regions, 25% were CHD and a further
18% chromosomal with or without CHD.
1
The high nonchro-
mosomal CHD perinatal mortality rate of 0.93 per 1000 births
in the Ukraine is probably related to low treatment success.
This suggests that it may not be possible to extrapolate
EUROCAT data on mortality to all other Eastern European
countries. Other countries at the higher end of the range of
perinatal mortality (0.37 to 0.38 per 1000) are Ireland, Malta,
and the Netherlands where there are no or very few TOPFA;
TOPFA are illegal in Malta and Ireland, and the Netherlands
did not carry out routine anomaly ultrasound scanning during
this period. The deficit in perinatal mortality below 0.4 per
1000 in other countries (Figure 2) needs to be assessed for
each country in terms of whether it is due to TOPFA, lower
total prevalence of severe CHD, better treatment outcomes
(possibly related to higher prenatal diagnosis rates among
LBs), low autopsy rates, and/or poor cause of death recording
(the last known to be a factor in Italy, which records the
lowest perinatal mortality
1
).
The present study has a number of limitations. Although
we analyzed nearly all the population-based information
on CHD available in the countries covered, this informa-
tion is not completely representative of the European
population. In countries only partially covered by EURO-
CAT registries, the results from 1 region may not reflect
the situation for the entire country, and some differences
between countries may be over- or underestimated as a
result. In terms of Europe as a whole, the countries
included are mainly EU countries, and the average results
cannot necessarily be extrapolated beyond these countries.
Secondly, caution should be exercised in interpreting the
prevalence of diagnosed cases as the underlying preva-
lence, given the range of ascertainment problems dis-
cussed. A third limitation relates to information recorded
on the age at diagnosis: The data set includes whether a
congenital anomaly was prenatally diagnosed or postnatal
age at first detection, but if the neonate is multiply
malformed it does not specify which anomaly was first
diagnosed. Some of these limitations relate to compro-
mises that were necessary to obtain a large European data
set bringing together many regions. On the other hand, the
strengths are the population-based data from many coun-
tries, all collecting a common data set and including all
pregnancy outcomes.
In the 27 countries of the present EU we have Ϸ5
million births per year. Assuming the data we present here
are reasonably representative for the EU, by simple ex-
trapolation we can estimate that there are 36 000 LBs
diagnosed with CHD each year, 1250 perinatal deaths with
nonchromosomal CHD, and nearly 2000 nonchromosomal
TOPFA with CHD. Investing in primary prevention is
essential to reduce this burden. Such measures need to be
both at an individual level (advice to women before they
become pregnant) and at the population level (regulation
of exposures in the domestic, occupational, and commu-
nity environment) to protect women who do not yet know
they are pregnant and to address exposures beyond the
control of individuals. Investing in pathogenetic research
can further increase the potential of primary prevention.
The data presented here also allow the impact of prenatal
diagnosis and termination of pregnancy on CHD preva-
lence and perinatal mortality to be further monitored and
inform the continuing substantial investment needed in
cardiac services from in utero to adulthood.
13.00
14.00
15.00
9.00
10.00
11.00
12.00
0
0
0

b
i
r
t
h
s
5.00
6.00
7.00
8.00
e
v
a
l
e
n
c
e

p
e
r

1
,
0
Non-chromosomal SIII LB CHD
Non-chromosomal SI/II LB CHD
1.00
2.00
3.00
4.00 P
r
e
Down syndrome LB and CHD
0.00
Country
Figure 4. LB prevalence of nonchromo-
somal congenital heart defect (SI/SII and
SIII)* and Down syndrome with congeni-
tal heart defects per 1000 births (95%
CI) per country, 2000 to 2005. *Severity
is ranked from greatest severity (SI) to
least severity (SIII) on the basis of peri-
natal mortality (see footnote to Table 2).
Unclassifed severity excluded.
Dolk et al Congenital Heart Defects in Europe 847
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Appendix
Members of the EUROCAT Working Group
Marie-Claude Addor (Division of Medical Genetics, University of
Lausanne, Switzerland)
Marian Bakker (Department of Genetics, University Medical Centre
Groningen, Northern Netherlands)
Ingeborg Barisic (Department of Paediatrics, Children’s University
Hospital Zagreb Croatia),
Sebastiano Bianca (ISMAC, Catania, Sicily, Italy),
Patricia Boyd (National Perinatal Epidemiology Unit, University of
Oxford, UK)
Elisa Calzolari (University of Ferrara, Emilia Romagna, Italy),
Berenice Doray (Hoˆpitale de Hautepierre, Strasbourg, France)
Miriam Gatt (Malta Department of Health Information and Research,
Malta)
Martin Haeusler (University of Graz, Styria, Austria)
Babak Khoshnood (INSERM U953, St Vincent de Paul Hospital,
Paris, France)
Kari Klungsoyr Melve (Norwegian Institute of Public Health, Ber-
gen, Norway)
Anna Latos-Bielenska (Poznan University of Medical Sciences,
Poland)
Bob McDonnell (Health Service Executive, Dr Steeven’s Hospital,
Dublin, Ireland)
Carmel Mullaney (Department of Public Health, Health Service
Executive - South East, Kilkenny, Ireland)
Vera Nelen (Provinciaal Instituut voor Hygiene, Antwerp, Belgium)
Mary O’Mahony (Department of Public Health, Health Service
Executive - South, Cork, Ireland)
Anna Pierini (CNR Institute of Clinical Physiology, Tuscany, Italy)
Simone Poetzsch (Medical Faculty, Otto-van-Guericke Univer-
sity, Magdeburg, Germany)
Annette Queisser-Luft (University Children’s Hospital, Mainz,
Germany)
Hanitra Randrianaivo (Naı ˆtre Aujourd’hui, Ile de la Re´union,
France)
Judith Rankin (Institute of Health and Society, University of New-
castle, UK)
Joaquin Salvador (Public Health Agency of Barcelona, Spain)
David Tucker (Swansea NHS Trust, Congenital Anomaly Register
and Information Service for Wales, UK)
Christine Verellen-Dumoulin (Institut de Morphologie Pathologique,
Hainaut-Namur, Belgium)
Diana Wellesley (Wessex Clinical Genetics Service, Princess Anne
Hospital, UK)
Wladimir Wertelecki (OMNI-Net, Ukraine)
Acknowledgments
We thank the many clinicians across Europe who have participated
in congenital anomaly registry activities. EUROCAT is a World
Health Organization Collaborating Centre for the Epidemiological
Surveillance of Congenital Anomalies.
Sources of Funding
EUROCAT is co-funded by the EC, under the framework of the EU
Public Health Programme, Grant Agreement 2006103 (Executive
Agency for Health and Consumers). Registries in each country are
funded by regional or national health authorities, research funders, or
hospitals. These sources of funding for each registry are given at
http://www.eurocat-network.eu/ABOUTUS/MemberRegistries/
MembersAndRegistryDescriptions/AllMembers.
Disclosures
None.
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CLINICAL PERSPECTIVE
Information on prevalence and fetal and perinatal mortality associated with Congenital Heart Defects (CHD) in Europe is
needed as a baseline from which to monitor future progress in primary prevention, to monitor the impact of termination
of pregnancy for fetal anomaly (TOPFA) on prevalence, to plan for high-quality services, and to allow individual regions
to compare their rates with the European average and range. We analyzed data from 29 population-based congenital
anomaly registries in 16 European countries covering 3.3 million births from 2000 to 2005. The total prevalence of CHD
was 8.0 per 1000 births, and live birth prevalence was 7.2 per 1000 births, varying between countries. The total prevalence
of nonchromosomal CHD was 7.0 per 1000 births, of which 3.6% were perinatal deaths and 5.6% TOPFA. Severe
nonchromosomal CHD (ie, excluding ventricular septal defects, atrial septal defects, and pulmonary valve stenosis)
occurred in 2.0 per 1000 births, of which 8.1% were perinatal deaths, 40% were prenatally diagnosed, and 14% were
TOPFA. The TOPFA proportion for severe CHD varied from 0 to 32% between countries. The live-birth prevalence of
Down syndrome with CHD (average 0.5 per 1000) varied Ͼ4-fold between countries because of differences in maternal
age profile of births and differences in TOPFA rates for Down syndrome. There are an estimated 36 000 children live born
with CHD in the European Union each year and 3000 TOPFA, stillbirth, or early neonatal deaths with CHD. Investing in
primary prevention and in cardiac services from in utero to adulthood is essential.
Dolk et al Congenital Heart Defects in Europe 849
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Supplemental Material
Supplemental Table 1(basis for Figure 2): Perinatal mortality and TOPFA associated
it! non"c!romosomal #$% by country& 2'''"2''(
Non-chromosomal CHD
Perinatal Mortality * TOPFA†
No Prevalence per 1,
!irths "#$% C&'
No Prevalence per 1,
!irths "#$% C&'
A(stria
)1 *+, "*)1-*$1' - *1+ "*.-*)$'
/el0i(m
,# *)1 "*)-*+.' ,- *). "*1#-*+$'
Croatia
1 *)1 "*--*,+' *
Denmar2
1 *+1 "*1$-*$-' - *)$ "*11-*,#'
France
#. *)- "*)+-*+,' +.. 1*. "*#.-1*1-'
3ermany
+, *)1 "*1#-*+-' .) *$ "*+--*.,'
&relan4
-) *+- "*+-*,1' *
&taly
+1 *1 "*$-*1' 1$1 *+$ "*+-*,1'
Malta
# *+- "*11-*1)' *
Netherlan4s
,, *+1 "*)1-*$' # *- "*,-*1,'
Nor5ay
.# *) "*1.-*)$' #1 *)- "*)+-*+,'
Polan4
.# *++ "*).-*,)' *
6pain
,) *)) "*1.-*)#' -$ *,, "*+$-*$,'
65it7erlan4
1 *)+ "*11-*,+' )) *$1 "*+)-*1-'
82raine
), *#+ "*.-1*+-' ) *- "*1-*)-'
89
),- *). "*)+-*+' ,$ *,1 "*,+-*$)'
Total -,$ *)$ "*),-*)1' 1+- *+# "*+1-*,1'
) Perinatal mortality*fetal deat!s from 2' ee+s gestation and 1st ee+ deat!s
,TOPFA * termination of pregnancy for fetal anomaly folloing prenatal diagnosis
Supplemental Figure 1: Proportion of cases resulting in mortality by se-erity& type of
non"c!romosomal #$% and type of mortality& 2'''"2''(