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Ann Thorac Surg. 2002 Dec;74(6):1967-77; discussion 1978.

Improving results of the modified Fontan operation in patients with heterotaxy syndrome.

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Department of Cardiac Surgery, Children's Hospital Boston, Harvard Medical School, Boston, Massachusetts 02115, USA.



Historically the Fontan operation in patients with single ventricle heterotaxy syndrome and atrial isomerism has been associated with high mortality. We studied whether recent modifications of the surgical technique have improved outcome.


A retrospective review of 135 patients with heterotaxy syndrome who underwent a Fontan operation between 1981 and 2000 was performed.


There were 93 patients with right isomerism and 42 with left isomerism. Anomalies of venous return included 25 patients with extracardiac pulmonary venous connection (19%) and 37 patients with an interrupted inferior vena cava (27%). Thirty-six patients (27%) had at least moderate atrioventricular valve regurgitation. The type of Fontan procedure included 17 patients with an atriopulmonary Fontan connection, 67 with a lateral tunnel modification, 19 with an intraatrial tube graft, 25 with an extracardiac tubegraft, and 7 with an intra-extra atrial tube graft. A fenestration was placed in 93 patients (78%). Early mortality was 19% before 1991, 3% since 1991, and no patient has died early since 1993. Ten-year survivals were 70% for Fontan operations before 1990 and 93% for Fontan operations after 1990. Thirty-two patients (23%) had prolonged pleural effusions. Risk factors for death included anomalous pulmonary venous connection (p = 0.02) and higher preoperative pulmonary vascular resistance (p = 0.002). Sixty-two patients (47%) had some form of early postoperative arrhythmia. At 10 years, freedom from late bradyarrhythmia and late tachyarrhythmia were 78% and 70%, respectively. Preoperative arrhythmias, older age at operation, and anatomic features were each independent predictors of late arrhythmia.


The Fontan operation can now be performed in patients with heterotaxy syndrome with excellent survival. However, morbidity in terms of postoperative arrhythmias and prolonged pleural effusions remains significant. Fontan staging, appropriate choice of Fontan modification, aggressive treatment of concomitant malformations, and use of a baffle fenestration contribute to improved outcome.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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