Inadequate myocardial protection with cold cardioplegic arrest during repair of tetralogy of Fallot

J Thorac Cardiovasc Surg. 1988 Feb;95(2):223-9.


Postoperative low cardiac output is the most common cause of death in patients undergoing elective repair of tetralogy of Fallot. The incidence is much higher than in elective adult bypass operations for coronary artery disease. To explain this difference, we investigated 16 children having elective repair of tetralogy (mean age 6.3 years). Myocardial biopsy specimens obtained during bypass before arrest, at the end of cold arrest by blood cardioplegia, and after 30 minutes of reperfusion were studied for adenosine triphosphate and lactate levels. Myocardium was submitted for microscopic study shortly after the onset of ischemia. The operation was successful in reducing right ventricular-pulmonary artery gradients from 82 +/- 28 to 9 +/- 1 mm Hg, yet seven patients required significant inotropic support (dopamine, greater than 5 micrograms/kg/min) for more than 24 hours and 12 patients needed prolonged use of digoxin and diuretics for right ventricular failure. Tissue levels of adenosine triphosphate and lactate in the tetralogy groups were compared with those in 20 adults with coronary artery disease having similar myocardial protection techniques. Adenosine triphosphate levels in the tetralogy group decreased during cross-clamping (41 +/- 8 minutes) from 24 +/- 3 to 16 +/- 2 mmol/kg dry weight (mean +/- 1 standard error), with a marked further drop after reperfusion to 9 +/- 2 mmol/kg (p less than 0.01). Adenosine triphosphate levels in the group with coronary disease also decreased from 20 +/- 1 to 16 +/- 1 mmol/kg after a longer cross-clamp time (70 +/- 17 minutes) but remained at 15 +/- 2 mmol/kg after reperfusion. Tissue lactate levels in the tetralogy group rose markedly during ischemia and remained elevated after reperfusion. In contrast, lactate levels in the group with coronary disease rose moderately during ischemia and returned to normal early on reperfusion. Microscopic study revealed focal myocyte necrosis in tetralogy of Fallot. Our findings, which demonstrate inadequate myocardial protection of patients with tetralogy during repair, with depression of adenosine triphosphate and increased lactate during ischemia and reperfusion, suggest a defect in oxidative metabolism. The drop in adenosine triphosphate after reperfusion in the patients with tetralogy implicates reperfusion injury as a mechanism of myocardial damage.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Adenosine Triphosphate / metabolism
  • Adult
  • Biopsy
  • Cardiac Output, Low / metabolism
  • Cardiac Output, Low / pathology
  • Child
  • Coronary Artery Bypass
  • Coronary Disease / metabolism
  • Coronary Disease / pathology
  • Coronary Disease / surgery
  • Heart Arrest, Induced / methods*
  • Histocytochemistry
  • Humans
  • Lactates / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Myocardium / pathology
  • Necrosis
  • Postoperative Complications / metabolism
  • Postoperative Complications / pathology
  • Tetralogy of Fallot / metabolism
  • Tetralogy of Fallot / mortality
  • Tetralogy of Fallot / pathology
  • Tetralogy of Fallot / surgery*


  • Lactates
  • Adenosine Triphosphate