Cavopulmonary assist: Long-term reversal of the Fontan paradox

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 2019 Dec;158(6):1627-1636. doi: 10.1016/j.jtcvs.2019.06.112. Epub 2019 Aug 28.


Objective: Fontan circulatory inefficiency can be addressed by replacing the missing subpulmonary power source to reverse the Fontan paradox. An implantable cavopulmonary assist device is described that will simultaneously reduce systemic venous pressure and increase pulmonary arterial pressure, improving preload and cardiac output, in a univentricular Fontan circulation on a long-term basis.

Methods: A rotary blood pump that was based on the von Karman viscous pump was designed for implantation into the total cavopulmonary connection (TCPC). It will impart modest pressure energy to augment Fontan flow without risk of obstruction. In the event of rotational failure, it is designed to default to a passive flow diverter. Pressure-flow performance was characterized in vitro in a Fontan mock circulatory loop with blood analog.

Results: The pump performed through the fully specified operating range, augmenting flow in all 4 directions of the TCPC. Pressure rise of 6 to 8 mm Hg was readily achieved, ranging to 14 mm Hg at highest speed (5600 rpm). Performance was consistent across a wide range of cardiac outputs. In stalled condition (0 rpm), there was no discernible pressure loss across the TCPC.

Conclusions: A blood pump technology is described that can reverse the Fontan paradox and may permit a surgical strategy of long-term biventricular maintenance of a univentricular Fontan circulation. The technology is intended for Fontan failure in which right-sided circulatory inefficiencies predominate and ventricular systolic function is preserved. It may also apply before clinical Fontan failure as health maintenance to preempt the progression of Fontan disease.

Keywords: Fontan; mechanical circulatory support; single ventricle.

Publication types

  • Video-Audio Media

MeSH terms

  • Arterial Pressure
  • Cardiac Output
  • Fontan Procedure / adverse effects*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / physiopathology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Heart Ventricles / abnormalities
  • Heart Ventricles / physiopathology
  • Heart Ventricles / surgery*
  • Heart-Assist Devices*
  • Hemodynamics*
  • Humans
  • Materials Testing
  • Prosthesis Design
  • Pulmonary Artery / physiopathology
  • Venous Pressure
  • Ventricular Function*