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J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2010 Jul;140(1):129-36. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2010.03.013.

Fenestration during Fontan palliation: now the exception instead of the rule.

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  • 1Division of Congenital Heart Surgery, Baylor College of Medicine, Houston, Tex, USA.



Fenestration during Fontan palliation has traditionally been used to decrease surgical morbidity and mortality, particularly in high-risk cases. Potential limitations include oxygen desaturation, risk of paradoxic embolism, and need for late intervention. Our practice has evolved away from routine fenestration with increased extracardiac conduit use. We reviewed our experience with Fontan palliation and retrospectively assessed outcomes with decreased fenestration.


Between January 2002 and April 2008, 226 patients underwent primary Fontan palliation. Outcomes were assessed by hospital stay, chest drain duration, short- and long-term survivals, and late interventions.


Anatomic subtypes were single left ventricle (n = 88, 38.9%), single right ventricle (n = 78, 34.5%), common ventricle (n = 19, 8.4%), and heterotaxy syndrome (n = 41, 18.1%). Lateral tunnel connection was created in 69 patients (30.5%); extracardiac connection was created in 157 (69.5%). Mean age and weight at surgery were 4.3 +/- 3.8 years and 17.2 +/- 9 kg, respectively. In 2002, 14 of 16 patients (87.5%) had fenestrated Fontan circulations, versus 2 of 32 (6.3%) in 2008. Mean hospital stay was 10.8 +/- 8.8 days. Survival to discharge or 30 days was 98.7%. There were 2 (0.9%) late deaths during mean follow-up of 2.0 +/- 1.7 years. Outcomes were equivalent between fenestrated and nonfenestrated procedures across anatomic subtypes.


Highly selective use of Fontan fenestration is achievable while maintaining excellent outcomes without increased surgical morbidity or mortality, irrespective of anatomic subtype. Risks of hypoxia, systemic embolism, and late instrumentation can be avoided in most cases.

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