No Increase in Congenital Heart Disease After Fukushima Nuclear Accident

By Reuters Staff

August 03, 2020

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) - First-time surgeries for congenital heart disease did not increase following the 2011 Fukushima nuclear accident, researchers in Japan report.

In 2019, Dr. Kaori Murase and colleagues from Nagoya City University Graduate School of Natural Sciences reported a nationwide increase in complex congenital heart disease cases in the years following the disaster (

Because of methodological issues that they say weaken the legitimacy of the earlier study, Dr. Yasutaka Hirata of The University of Tokyo Hospital and colleagues used data from the Japanese Cardiovascular Surgery Database's congenital section to calculate the number of children undergoing their first congenital cardiovascular surgery and evaluated the trend between 2010 and 2013.

Overall, nearly 12,000 children born between 2010 and 2013 had undergone congenital cardiovascular surgeries at the age of 2 years or younger.

The yearly number of first-time surgeries was 2,978 in 2010, 2,924 in 2011, 3,077 in 2012, and 2,940 in 2013.

Visual inspection suggests no apparent monthly increase in the number of simple or complex cases over the observed time period, the researchers report in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Similarly, when the analysis was confined to first-time surgeries performed at facilities in the Tohoku area (which includes Fukushima), there was no apparent monthly increase in the numbers of simple or complex cases during this period.

Moreover, there was no increase in the percentage of live births that underwent congenital heart surgeries during this interval.

In contrast, the total number of operations performed for complex diseases under 1 year of age appeared to increase over time, while the mortality of the initial operations for complex diseases (which often involve multiple subsequent operations) decreased over the observed time.

"From the above findings, we can surmise that the increase in the number of total complex congenital heart disease (CHD) surgeries derived from the results of the Japanese Association for Thoracic Surgery survey and discussed by Murase et al. do not correspond to an increase in the number of patients with CHD; our results suggest that the decline in first-time operation mortality for complex CHD, which often involves multiple operations, indirectly led to an increase in the observed total number of operations performed over the given time period," the authors conclude.

Dr. Hirata and Dr. Murase did not respond to requests for comments on this report.

SOURCE: Journal of the American Heart Association, online July 2, 2020