Background: The potential for improved preservation of systemic ventricular function represents an important reason for the increasing popularity of the arterial switch operation. In support of this expectation, prior studies in patients early after arterial switch operation have found normal ventricular contractility and function. This study was conducted to extend those observations to up to 10 years of follow-up and to directly examine the effects of a coexisting ventricular septal defect or short-term preparatory banding of the pulmonary artery before the arterial switch operation.
Methods: Patients operated on from 1983 through 1991 were included. Echocardiographic and catheterization data were collected as part of a prospective evaluation of outcome in all patients who undergo the arterial switch operation at Boston Children's Hospital, with inclusion of data from the most recent catheterization only. Echocardiograms performed at least 6 months after the operation were included, with assessment of both the most recent status as well as serial trends. Whenever possible, echocardiographic evaluation included data necessary to perform analysis of ventricular mechanics including indices of afterload, preload, and contractility. Comparison was made to normal values and between subgroups defined on the basis of an arterial switch operation with or without ventricular septal defect and those who had a rapid two-stage arterial switch operation.
Results: Invasive measures of left and right ventricular filling pressures, cardiac index, and pulmonary vascular resistance did not differ among the three groups. Overall, echocardiographic left ventricular end-diastolic dimension, wall thickness, mass, afterload (end-systolic wall stress), function (fractional shortening and rate-corrected velocity of fiber shortening), contractility (stress-velocity and stress-shortening relations), and preload were normal, and none of these variables was different between the groups with and without a ventricular septal defect. Serial evaluation indicated a slight but significant trend toward ventricular dilatation, perhaps related to a relatively high incidence of at least mild aortic regurgitation (30%). In contrast, in the rapid two-stage group the echocardiographic indices of left ventricular function (fractional shortening and velocity of fiber shortening) and contractility (stress-velocity and stress-shortening relations) were found to be mildly but significantly reduced compared with normal subjects and with the other arterial switch operation groups. Over the duration of follow-up encompassed by this study, no tendency toward progressive depression of function was seen.
Conclusions: As the length of observation after the arterial switch operation continues to increase, left ventricular size, mass, functional status, and contractility continues to be normal, with no evidence of time-related deterioration of function. As previously reported, the rapid two-stage arterial switch operation does represent a higher risk for mild impairment of myocardial mechanics.