Hemodynamic performance of tissue-engineered vascular grafts in Fontan patients

NPJ Regen Med. 2021 Jul 22;6(1):38. doi: 10.1038/s41536-021-00148-w.


In the field of congenital heart surgery, tissue-engineered vascular grafts (TEVGs) are a promising alternative to traditionally used synthetic grafts. Our group has pioneered the use of TEVGs as a conduit between the inferior vena cava and the pulmonary arteries in the Fontan operation. The natural history of graft remodeling and its effect on hemodynamic performance has not been well characterized. In this study, we provide a detailed analysis of the first U.S. clinical trial evaluating TEVGs in the treatment of congenital heart disease. We show two distinct phases of graft remodeling: an early phase distinguished by rapid changes in graft geometry and a second phase of sustained growth and decreased graft stiffness. Using clinically informed and patient-specific computational fluid dynamics (CFD) simulations, we demonstrate how changes to TEVG geometry, thickness, and stiffness affect patient hemodynamics. We show that metrics of patient hemodynamics remain within normal ranges despite clinically observed levels of graft narrowing. These insights strengthen the continued clinical evaluation of this technology while supporting recent indications that reversible graft narrowing can be well tolerated, thus suggesting caution before intervening clinically.