Progression of liver pathology in patients undergoing the Fontan procedure: Chronic passive congestion, cardiac cirrhosis, hepatic adenoma, and hepatocellular carcinoma

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2005 Jun;129(6):1348-52. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2004.10.005.


Background: Staged palliative surgical procedures have been an effective treatment of complex congenital heart defects. The Fontan procedure has been of particular benefit to infants with functional single-ventricle complexes but with the consequence of a sustained increase of right-sided venous pressure.

Methods: We reviewed the clinical and pathologic features of 9 autopsied patients having undergone the Fontan procedure, with special attention given to their liver pathology.

Results: The 9 patients died from a few hours to 18 years after the Fontan operation. Chronic passive congestion was seen in 7 patients, and 4 patients surviving 4 to 18 years also had cardiac cirrhosis. Hepatic adenoma in the setting of cardiac cirrhosis was found in a patient surviving for 9 years. One patient surviving for 18 years had hepatocellular carcinoma superimposed on cardiac cirrhosis. Rupture of the hepatoma in this case led to fatal hemorrhage.

Conclusion: The study shows that chronically increased hepatic venous pressure from the Fontan procedure might lead to chronic passive congestion, cardiac cirrhosis, hepatic adenoma, and hepatocellular carcinoma.

MeSH terms

  • Adenoma / etiology*
  • Adenoma / pathology*
  • Adolescent
  • Adult
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / etiology*
  • Carcinoma, Hepatocellular / pathology*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Chronic Disease
  • Disease Progression
  • Female
  • Fibrosis
  • Fontan Procedure / adverse effects*
  • Heart Failure / etiology*
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Liver / pathology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Liver Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Male
  • Myocardium / pathology*