Challenges in longer-term mechanical support of fontan circulation in sheep

ASAIO J. 2012 Jan-Feb;58(1):60-4. doi: 10.1097/MAT.0b013e31823c0aa4.


Single ventricle congenital heart defects are usually palliated with the end result of a Fontan circulation. Despite improving results, this circulation is still associated with long-term failure. We previously developed an animal model of mechanical cavopulmonary circulation support that was successful in the acute and mid-term period. In the current study, we evaluated longer support durations in five Western-breed sheep. Through a right thoracotomy we instituted mechanical support from the inferior vena cava to the pulmonary artery, using a Heartmate II axial flow pump (Thoratec Corp., Pleasanton, CA). Postoperatively, the animals were anticoagulated with heparin iv. Hemodynamics, pump flow, anticoagulation, and hepatic and renal function were monitored daily. All animals survived the operation. Signs of moderate liver and kidney injury in general reversed quickly. Two animals had a fatal pump thrombosis. When anticoagulation was effective, hemodynamics and pump flow were maintained to normal values. Effective anticoagulation was difficult to achieve because of the high variability in response to heparin. Survival up to 18 days was accomplished. This study is the longest reported survival of animals with a mechanically assisted cavopulmonary circulation. The performance of the Thoratec Heartmate II has been good, but the issue of effective anticoagulation has not yet been solved.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Anticoagulants / therapeutic use
  • Fontan Procedure / methods*
  • Heart Atria / pathology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery
  • Heart Failure / physiopathology
  • Heart Failure / surgery*
  • Heart-Assist Devices
  • Hemodynamics
  • Humans
  • Models, Animal
  • Models, Cardiovascular
  • Pulmonary Artery
  • Sheep
  • Time Factors
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Anticoagulants