Palliative Potts shunt for the treatment of children with drug-refractory pulmonary arterial hypertension: updated data from the first 24 patients

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 2015 Mar;47(3):e105-10. doi: 10.1093/ejcts/ezu445. Epub 2014 Dec 4.


Objectives: Palliative Potts shunt has been proposed in children with suprasystemic pulmonary arterial hypertension (PAH).

Methods: A retrospective multicentre study was performed to assess short- and long-term outcomes after Potts shunt.

Results: From 2003 to 2014, 24 children underwent a Potts shunt [19 surgical, median age: 7.7 years (1.5-17 years), median weight: 19.5 kg (10.2-47 kg) and 5 transcatheter, median age: 8.1 years (2.3-9.7 years), median weight: 22 kg (12.5-31 kg)] for drug-refractory PAH. For the first time in humans, we performed an unidirectional valved Potts anastomosis in a child with infrasystemic PAH on intravenous epoprostenol who experienced repeated central line infections. Severe postoperative complications occurred in 6 patients (25.0%, all from the surgical group) including 3 early deaths (12.5%) related to low cardiac output. After a median follow-up (FU) of 2.1 years (range, 3 months to 14.3 years, ≥8 years in 7 patients), World Health Organization (WHO) functional class was dramatically improved in the 21 survivors, all being in WHO-functional class 1 or 2 (P < 0.05); none experienced syncope during the FU; none had overt right ventricular failure; mean 6-min walk distance improved from 42.3 ± 10.0% to 81.2 ± 9.7% of adjusted values for age and sex (P < 0.001), BNP/NT-proBNP levels normalized in all; and weaning of intravenous epoprostenol was obtained in all patients who received triple combination as pre-Potts anastomosis therapy. Finally, all survivors caught up to normal growth curves. Arterial oxygen saturation gradient between upper and lower limbs persisted at the last FU (94.7 ± 3.6% vs 81.6 ± 5.1%, P < 0.001). One patient required double lung transplantation 6 years after a surgical Potts shunt.

Conclusions: Palliative Potts shunt allows prolonged survival and dramatic, long-lasting improvement in functional capacities in children with severe, drug-refractory PAH. The Potts shunt might be considered as a first surgical or interventional step in the management of children with severe, drug-refractory PAH, leaving the door open for further lung transplantation, if needed.

Keywords: Paediatric; Potts shunt; Pulmonary arterial hypertension.

Publication types

  • Multicenter Study

MeSH terms

  • Adolescent
  • Anastomosis, Surgical / adverse effects*
  • Anastomosis, Surgical / methods*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Hypertension, Pulmonary / surgery*
  • Infant
  • Male
  • Palliative Care / methods*
  • Retrospective Studies