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adolescents, concurrent validity, congenital heart disease, Montreal Cognitive Assessment, youth



  1. Pike, Nancy A.
  2. Poulsen, Marie K.
  3. Woo, Mary A.


Background: Cognitive deficits are common, long-term sequelae in children and adolescents with congenital heart disease (CHD) who have undergone surgical palliation. However, there is a lack of a validated brief cognitive screening tool appropriate for the outpatient setting for adolescents with CHD. One candidate instrument is the Montreal Cognitive Assessment (MoCA) questionnaire.


Objective: The purpose of the research was to validate scores from the MoCA against the General Memory Index (GMI) of the Wide Range Assessment of Memory and Learning, 2nd Edition (WRAML2), a widely accepted measure of cognition/memory, in adolescents and young adults with CHD.


Methods: We administered the MoCA and the WRAML2 to 156 adolescents and young adults ages 14-21 (80 youth with CHD and 76 healthy controls who were gender and age matched). Spearman's rank order correlations were used to assess concurrent validity. To assess construct validity, the Mann-Whitney U test was used to compare differences in scores in youth with CHD and the healthy control group. Receiver operating characteristic curves were created and area under the curve, sensitivity, specificity, positive predictive value, and negative predictive value were also calculated.


Results: The MoCA median scores in the CHD versus healthy controls were (23, range 15-29 vs. 28, range 22-30; p < .001), respectively. With the screening cutoff scores at <26 points for the MoCA and 85 for GMI (<1 SD, M = 100, SD = 15), the CHD versus healthy control groups showed sensitivity of .96 and specificity of .67 versus sensitivity of .75 and specificity of .90, respectively, in the detection of cognitive deficits. A cutoff score of 26 on the MoCA was optimal in the CHD group; a cutoff of 25 had similar properties except for a lower negative predictive value. The area under the receiver operating characteristic curve (95% CI) for the MoCA was 0.84 (95% CI [0.75, 0.93], p < .001) and 0.84 (95% CI [0.62, 1.00], p = .02) for the CHD and controls, respectively.


Discussion: Scores on the MoCA were valid for screening to detect cognitive deficits in adolescents and young adults aged 14-21 with CHD when a cutoff score of 26 is used to differentiate youth with and without significant cognitive impairment. Future studies are needed in other adolescent disease groups with known cognitive deficits and healthy populations to explore the generalizability of validity of MoCA scores in adolescents and young adults.