The Fontan Circulation: From Ideal to Failing Hemodynamics and Drug Therapies for Optimization

Can J Cardiol. 2022 Jul;38(7):1059-1071. doi: 10.1016/j.cjca.2022.04.014. Epub 2022 Apr 23.


Fontan palliation results in a hemodynamically complex circulation with multisystem consequences, which in the long term adversely affect many body processes. Systemic venous hypertension, nonpulsatile low-shear pulmonary blood flow, and low cardiac output are the 3 main characteristics of a Fontan circulation, leading to unavoidable slowly progressive failure. An appreciation of how the hemodynamics of a Fontan circulation change with time and relate to the various modes of Fontan circulatory failure is important. Accurate hemodynamic assessment aid this understanding and may permit early identification of potentially treatable drivers of decline. While no evidence-based or guideline-directed pharmacologic management strategy has been established in Fontan patients, understanding the hemodynamics of Fontan circulation failure will assist in the rational selection of potentially helpful drug therapies for individual patients. In this review, we present hemodynamic concepts of the optimal Fontan physiology and Fontan circulatory failure, review practical aspects of invasive hemodynamic assessment, and discuss the role of drug therapies in increasing systemic venous blood flow return and decreasing ventricular filling pressures in Fontan circulation. Often complementary to catheter-based or surgical interventions, pharmacologic management aims at preserving patency of the circuit, adequate systolic and diastolic ventricular function, atrioventricular valve function, an unobstructed ventricular outflow tract, and pulmonary vascular integrity in order to maintain an acceptable cardiac output.

Publication types

  • Review
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fontan Procedure* / adverse effects
  • Heart Defects, Congenital* / surgery
  • Heart Ventricles
  • Hemodynamics / physiology
  • Humans
  • Pulmonary Circulation
  • Ventricular Function