DOI: 10.4037/ajcc2024404 ISSN: 1062-3264

Mental Health Symptoms in Parents of Infants 3 Months After Discharge Following Neonatal Cardiac Surgery

Amy J. Lisanti, Ryan Quinn, Jesse L. Chittams, Megan Laubacher, Barbara Medoff-Cooper, Abigail C. Demianczyk
  • Critical Care Nursing
  • General Medicine


Parents of newborns with congenital heart disease (CHD) are at risk for anxiety, depression, and post-traumatic stress. Few studies have examined whether modifiable factors that influence parents’ mental health after discharge are present during postoperative care in the pediatric cardiac intensive care unit (PCICU).


To describe mental health symptoms of parents of infants with CHD 3 months after PCICU discharge and to determine factors during the PCICU stay that are predictors of such symptoms.


A longitudinal cohort pilot study of 56 parents (28 mother-father dyads) of 28 infants with CHD. During the first postoperative week after cardiac surgery, parents completed questionnaires measuring factors potentially influencing mental health. Three months after discharge, 42 parents of 22 infants completed validated measures of anxiety, depression, and posttraumatic stress.


Three months after discharge, 26% of parents had clinically elevated levels of anxiety symptoms, 21% had clinically significant levels of depressive symptoms, and 19% had posttraumatic stress symptoms. In multi-variable analysis, parental role alteration in the PCICU was predictive of anxiety (P = .002), depressive (P = .02), and posttraumatic stress (P = .02) symptoms 3 months after discharge. Higher education level was predictive of anxiety symptoms (P = .009). Postnatal CHD diagnosis was predictive of posttraumatic stress symptoms (P = .04).


Parental role alteration perceived by parents during the PCICU stay is a modifiable stressor contributing to adverse mental health symptoms 3 months after discharge. Interventions targeting parental role alteration in the PCICU are critically needed.

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