Simulations reveal adverse hemodynamics in patients with multiple systemic to pulmonary shunts

J Biomech Eng. 2015 Mar;137(3):0310011-03100112. doi: 10.1115/1.4029429. Epub 2015 Jan 29.


For newborns diagnosed with pulmonary atresia or severe pulmonary stenosis leading to insufficient pulmonary blood flow, cyanosis can be mitigated with placement of a modified Blalock-Taussig shunt (MBTS) between the innominate and pulmonary arteries. In some clinical scenarios, patients receive two systemic-to-pulmonary connections, either by leaving the patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) open or by adding an additional central shunt (CS) in conjunction with the MBTS. This practice has been motivated by the thinking that an additional source of pulmonary blood flow could beneficially increase pulmonary flow and provide the security of an alternate pathway in case of thrombosis. However, there have been clinical reports of premature shunt occlusion when more than one shunt is employed, leading to speculation that multiple shunts may in fact lead to unfavorable hemodynamics and increased mortality. In this study, we hypothesize that multiple shunts may lead to undesirable flow competition, resulting in increased residence time (RT) and elevated risk of thrombosis, as well as pulmonary overcirculation. Computational fluid dynamics-based multiscale simulations were performed to compare a range of shunt configurations and systematically quantify flow competition, pulmonary circulation, and other clinically relevant parameters. In total, 23 cases were evaluated by systematically changing the PDA/CS diameter, pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR), and MBTS position and compared by quantifying oxygen delivery (OD) to the systemic and coronary beds, wall shear stress (WSS), oscillatory shear index (OSI), WSS gradient (WSSG), and RT in the pulmonary artery (PA), and MBTS. Results showed that smaller PDA/CS diameters can lead to flow conditions consistent with increased thrombus formation due to flow competition in the PA, and larger PDA/CS diameters can lead to insufficient OD due to pulmonary hyperfusion. In the worst case scenario, it was found that multiple shunts can lead to a 160% increase in RT and a 10% decrease in OD. Based on the simulation results presented in this study, clinical outcomes for patients receiving multiple shunts should be critically investigated, as this practice appears to provide no benefit in terms of OD and may actually increase thrombotic risk.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Anastomosis, Surgical / adverse effects*
  • Coronary Vessels / metabolism
  • Coronary Vessels / physiology
  • Coronary Vessels / surgery
  • Hemodynamics*
  • Humans
  • Models, Biological*
  • Oxygen / metabolism
  • Pulmonary Artery / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Artery / surgery*
  • Pulmonary Veins / physiology*
  • Pulmonary Veins / surgery*
  • Pulsatile Flow
  • Risk
  • Stress, Mechanical
  • Thrombosis / etiology


  • Oxygen