The Blalock-Taussig shunt revisited: a contemporary experience

J Am Coll Surg. 2013 Apr;216(4):699-704; discussion 704-6. doi: 10.1016/j.jamcollsurg.2012.12.027. Epub 2013 Feb 12.


Background: The Blalock-Taussig shunt (BTS) was introduced 68 years ago before open repair of cyanotic congenital heart disease (CHD) was possible. The originally described technique has undergone many modifications but remains an integral component of the management of cyanotic CHD. We report our contemporary, single institution experience with the BTS.

Study design: We performed a retrospective review of all patients treated with a BTS from June 1995 to December 2011.

Results: There were 730 BTS performed in 712 patients; 727 (99.6%) by interposition graft (modified). The BTS was predominantly right-sided (n = 657, 90%). Median age and weight at palliation were 8 days (range 0 days to 18.5 years) and 3.2 kg (1.5 to 51 kg). Median hospital length of stay was 16 days (range 0 to 347 days). There were 241 (33%) BTS performed as initial palliation for ultimate 2-ventricle (2V) circulation, 471 (65%) as part of staged palliation for patients with functionally univentricular lesions (1V), 6 (1%) as a part of 1.5-ventricle palliation, and 12 (1%) for Ebstein's anomaly. There were 473 (65%) BTS placed via sternotomy and the most common site of BTS was the right subclavian to right pulmonary artery (PA; n = 452, 62%). Hospital mortality was higher for BTS in 1V patients (1V 15% vs 2V 3%, p < 0.0001). Overall, 536 (73%) patients were bridged to complete repair or the second stage of 1V palliation after a median duration of 6.5 months (0 days to 15.3 years). Multivariable regression showed that sternotomy approach, use of cardiopulmonary bypass, innominate artery-PA shunt, and diagnosis of Ebstein's were risk factors for in-hospital mortality (p < 0.05).

Conclusions: Although the BTS remains an important component of the surgical treatment of cyanotic congenital heart disease, patients with single ventricle circulation still face significant ongoing risk of mortality.

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Blalock-Taussig Procedure*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Male
  • Retrospective Studies