Mechanical support of total cavopulmonary connection with an axial flow pump

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2005 Aug;130(2):351-4. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2004.12.037.


Objective: Even under optimal circumstances, total cavopulmonary connection is associated with a continuous late risk of death. Hemodynamics are distinctly abnormal, with increased systemic venous pressures and frequent low cardiac output. Our study uses a sheep model of total cavopulmonary connection to test the response to axial flow pump (Thoratec HeartMate II; Thoratec Corporation (Pleasanton, Calif)) support of total cavopulmonary connection, which might be suitable to treat patients with failing Fontan circulation.

Methods: Eight sheep (42-48 kg) were studied. After pilot studies in 3 animals, 5 underwent both pump-supported and nonsupported total cavopulmonary connection in alternating sequence for up to 2 hours. This was achieved with a 12-mm polytetrafluoroethylene graft from the (distally ligated) superior vena cava to the main pulmonary artery and a cannula placed in the inferior vena cava with an attached 16-mm Dacron graft to the main pulmonary artery. Pressures (arterial, inferior vena cava, left atrium, and pulmonary artery) and flows (ascending aorta and inferior vena cava) were recorded over 1 hour both with unsupported total cavopulmonary connection and after placing an axial flow pump (Thoratec HeartMate II) between the inferior vena caval inflow cannula and the main pulmonary artery.

Results: Under nonsupported total cavopulmonary connection circulation, inferior vena caval and aortic blood flow decreased by nearly 50%. Inferior vena caval pressure nearly doubled, whereas arterial pressure decreased by one third. Pulmonary artery pressure became nonpulsatile; however, mean pulmonary artery pressure and left atrial pressure did not change significantly. With pump-supported Fontan circulation, cardiac output, inferior vena caval flow, and arterial pressure returned to baseline. Inferior vena caval pressure decreased to below baseline levels. Mean pulmonary artery pressure and left atrial pressure again remained unchanged.

Conclusions: Axial flow pump support from the inferior vena cava to the pulmonary artery can prevent the substantial decrease of aortic flow and pressure associated with total cavopulmonary connection and can reverse its poor hemodynamics. This is a simple model that can be used to further evaluate the potential of mechanical support as a treatment option in failing Fontan circulation.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Feasibility Studies
  • Fontan Procedure / adverse effects*
  • Heart Failure / etiology
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart Failure / surgery*
  • Heart-Assist Devices*
  • Hemodynamics
  • Models, Animal
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Sheep
  • Treatment Outcome