Adolescent and parent perspectives prior to involvement in a Fontan transition program

Int J Adolesc Med Health. 2017 May 24;31(4). doi: 10.1515/ijamh-2017-0021.


Background Successful transition to adult healthcare is particularly important for congenital heart disease (CHD) patients who have undergone palliative surgery, as they risk adverse events if not followed closely. This study examines young people at the worst end of the CHD spectrum who are born with a single ventricle (pumping heart chamber), and who undergo a series of operations that culminate in the Fontan surgical procedure. Purpose To explore adolescents with a Fontan circulation, and their parents', readiness for transition to adult care and pre-implementation of a transition program. Methods Seventeen adolescents (15-18 years) and 15 of their parents completed questionnaires at the start of their first transition clinic. Results Adolescents reported poor knowledge about their Fontan circulation, and 41% had a poor understanding of the purpose of their medications/treatments. Over half of the adolescents had poor knowledge around medical help-seeking (when, who, how). Most reported feeling comfortable with discussing their medical issues with their cardiologist, but considerably less so about sensitive adolescent issues, in particular, emotional wellbeing. Parents reported high levels of anxiety around transition to adult care services. Conclusion Findings pre-program indicate poor adolescent health knowledge, a lack of focus in health services on emotional wellbeing and high parental anxiety. These findings highlight the need for dedicated programs that focus on early preparation, parental involvement and acknowledgment, transition as a process, strong integration and prioritisation in the health system with a youth-friendly and holistic focus, in particular, around emotional wellbeing.

Keywords: Fontan circulation; transition from paediatric to adult care; transition support programs.