Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program at UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh

Many children born with congenital heart disease (CHD) have medical treatment and surgery early in life. This helps them grow and thrive.

The Link Between Heart and Brain

Research shows that children treated for CHD are at a greater risk of developmental delays or learning problems.

They may have issues with:

  • Motor and language skills.
  • Visual-spatial skills.
  • Attention span.
  • Behavior and self-control.
  • Mental skills, such as memory and flexible thinking.
  • Social skills.
  • Anxiety or depression.
  • Feeding and sleeping.

To help reach their full potential, they need support as their brains develop during childhood.

At UPMC Children's Hospital of Pittsburgh, we continue to make great strides in treating children with CHD.

Our Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program (CNDP):

  • Supports children with CHD and their families before birth.
  • Cares for your child as they grow, right through their teen years.
  • Offers cognitive support alongside outstanding CHD treatment.

To make an appointment, please call 412-692-8512 or email

What Heart-Brain Services Does the CNDP Offer?

Early treatment can give your child a better chance of leading a full and happy life.

The CNDP team will:

  • Partner with you and your family on your child's care.
  • Answer any questions or concerns about your child's health, development, or behavior.
  • Arrange any services or interventions that can help your child thrive.

Here are some of the services we offer.

Family support before birth

Learning your unborn child has a heart problem can feel overwhelming.

At UPMC Children's Hospital, we pair psychosocial services with your fetal heart care. We support your whole family's emotional health — from your child's CHD diagnosis through pregnancy and after birth.

The first step is a prenatal teleconsult with a child psychologist. At this visit, you can ask questions and share concerns about your child's development.

We can help you:

  • Cope with your child's CHD diagnosis while you're pregnant.
  • Prepare for birth.
  • Parent while your child is in the hospital and getting heart care.

During your child's hospital stays

Your child may need surgeries and hospitalization during crucial times in their development.

Our inpatient CNDP:

  • Aims to empower your family.
  • Integrates coping and caring activities to support your relationship with your child.
  • Fosters your child's growth and development while in the hospital.
  • Provides family-centered support and complete care for you, your child, and your loved ones at every stage.

Your child's care team includes:

  • Heart doctors and nurses.
  • Psychologists and other mental health experts.
  • Physical and occupational therapists.
  • Child life specialists.
  • Lactation consultants.

Outpatient early childhood services

After your child leaves the hospital, we'll refer you to the CNDP clinic for routine follow-up CHD care.

You'll meet with a child psychologist specializing in the development of infants and families with CHD.

The first visit is a virtual check-up one to two months after your child leaves the hospital.

You can share how your child is doing at home and how they've progressed. Our team will offer support and answer any questions you have.

Download the myCHP app to connect to this visit.

After the visit, we can decide the best time for your child's first in-person neurodevelopmental exam. You can schedule this visit on the same day as your child's CHD appointments at UPMC Children's main campus.

Visits in early childhood will often occur at:

  • 6 to 12 months.
  • 18 to 24 months.
  • 30 to 36 months.

At these visits, we'll complete developmental assessments and a neuromotor screening.

We'll assess how your child:

  • Thinks and solves problems.
  • Communicates.
  • Moves.
  • Is growing socially, emotionally, and behaviorally.

Our team will also:

  • Ask about your child's sleeping, eating, activity, and behavior.
  • Discuss any concerns you may have.
  • Help you access treatments or resources to support your child in these vital early years.

Outpatient school-age neuropsychology

Once your child is in school, we'll continue to work with you to support their learning and development.

You will meet with our child neuropsychologist, who will:

  • Assess your child's thinking skills and emotional and behavioral functioning.
  • Talk about your child's developmental history.
  • Address your questions or concerns.

They may ask you to complete questionnaires about their developmental, social, mental, and behavioral well-being.

Your child will also take part in one-on-one testing of their:

  • Mental abilities, such as abstract thinking, problem-solving, reasoning, and planning.
  • Academic skills.
  • Language.
  • Visual-spatial skills.
  • Fine motor skills.
  • Attention.
  • Higher-level mental and self-regulation skills like working memory, organization, and time management.

After testing, we'll give you feedback about your child's cognitive strengths and weaknesses.

They may be right on track. Or, we may suggest support, including guidance for school planning.

As part of our program, we assess your child before they start kindergarten.

And then, we suggest follow-ups:

  • Around third grade.
  • Before entering middle school and high school.
  • At any other point, if concerns arise.

Behavioral health services

The Heart Institute and Behavioral Science Division of UPMC Children's team offer specialized care for children with CHD.

Children and teens may have higher rates of behavioral or emotional issues related to their diagnosis of CHD, such as:

  • ADHD.
  • Social concerns.
  • Depression.
  • Anxiety.

We tailor therapies to each family's needs. Mental health care is a vital part of your child's treatment.

The sooner we address any issues, the better.

If you have questions or concerns about your child's behavior or mental health needs, call the CNDP at 412-692-8512.

CHD and brain health research

Many of our doctors lead studies to better learn how CHD affects a child's brain development. Your child may be able to volunteer for a study.

Our current research includes:

  • Use of MRI to test brain development and structure in people with CHD, from birth to adulthood.
  • Developmental and genetic factors that influence brain development in people with CHD.
  • Finding biomarkers that can predict brain development in children with CHD.
  • How environmental factors can affect how your child's brain develops.

These projects aim to provide earlier diagnosis and detection of risk factors for brain development disabilities.

Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Collaborative (CNOC)

UPMC Children's is a member of CNOC.

We work with teams across CNOC to optimize clinical, quality, and research initiatives for children with CHD.

Why Choose UPMC for Your Child's CHD and Development?

At UPMC Children's, we provide expert care for children and families throughout the CHD journey. Our goal is to help your child thrive and reach their full potential.

You should choose UPMC Children's because:

  • We're experts at detecting developmental problems. Some of these may be subtle and more apparent at different stages of your child's growth. We do routine screenings and tests that The American Academy of Pediatrics and American Heart Association recommend.
  • We follow your child's development for years, not months. Our care team will track your child's disease from birth (or before) through their teens.
  • Our experts specialize in working with infants, children, and teens with CHD. It's not a sideline — it's our focus.
  • UPMC is one of the nation's leading research hospitals. Your child will see experts on the cutting edge of knowing how CHD affects brain development. And they may be able to take part in a clinical trial.

Our Experts at the Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Program

Lauren Lorenzi Quigley, PhD
Program Director and Child Psychologist

Susan Bowen, PhD
CNDP Associate Director and Child Neuropsychologist

Tracy Baust, BA, CCRC
Program Coordinator

Ashok Panigrahy MD

Jacqueline Weinberg, MD
Children's Heart Doctor

Contact us

To make an appointment, please call 412-692-8512 or email