Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Program Contact number | 202-476-6867


Protecting the Prenatal Brain

We have an NIH study to identify innovative methods to detect, and someday prevent, prenatal brain injury caused by congenital heart disease.

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Research shows that children born with congenital heart disease, who are born cyanotic (blue), or need surgery within their first year of life may have developmental and learning difficulties. Children’s National Health System’s Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome (CANDO) Program evaluates and manages patients impacted by congenital heart disease to try to maximize their potential. The program is directed by Mary Donofrio, MD, pediatric cardiologist and Jacqueline Sanz, PhD, neuropsychologist.

The CANDO Program provides developmental evaluations from infancy through teenage years, with a goal of identifying weaknesses early, providing families with recommendations, and a treatment plan, in coordination with your child’s pediatrician and cardiologist.

The CANDO Program provides:

  • A detailed profile of your child’s developmental cognitive and behavioral strengths and weaknesses
  • Evaluation for neurodevelopmental disorders, such as ADHD or other learning disorders
  • Information to guide treatment and intervention for developmental delays
  • Monitoring of progress and treatment effectiveness in a standardized way over time

What to Expect:

Ages 0-3: Children between the ages of infancy to 3 years old will be evaluated by Children’s National’s team of psychology and developmental specialists. These children will be evaluated for motor and cognitive skills, language development, play skills, behavior, and feeding skills. Our team works closely with your child’s cardiologist and pediatrician and will share all evaluation information and recommendations with them. Screenings with a neurologist and follow-up visits may be needed.

Ages 4 and up: Children age 4-6 will be evaluated by Children’s National’s team of neuropsychologists for school readiness prior to the start of kindergarten or first grade, and are seen again before entering middle and upper school. At these different ages, the following will be assessed:

  • Thinking skills
  • Intellectual skills
  • Attention
  • Executive skills
  • Learning and memory
  • Visual-spatial
  • Motor skills
  • Emotional, behavior, and social function

Families can expect the same sharing of information with pediatricians and cardiologists, plus a second neurology screening, and follow up visits as needed through the teen years, with more evaluations provided for the transition into adulthood.

Cameron H.'s Story

Transposition of the Great Arteries TGA

"If your child has been diagnosed with a heart defect, please know that Children's National will provide your child with the best care possible."

Cameron H.'s Story

The Cardiac Neurodevelopmental Outcome Program Team

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Children’s National provides a healthcare experience designed with kids in mind, and delivers confidence and assurance when parents need it most. We provide a wide range of clinical services and specialties dedicated to improving children’s health.


Children’s National sees children from around the Washington, DC, metropolitan region, nation, and world who need the kind of specialized expertise and child-focused care we offer. No matter what your child needs, we can provide care that’s just right.

Related Departments

Pediatric specialists at Children’s National work closely to ensure an integrated approach to caring for each child and family.