Objectives: This study was performed to assess the value of nuclear magnetic resonance (NMR) velocity mapping for the measurement of pulmonary blood flow after Fontan surgery.
Background: Echocardiographic studies of pulmonary flow after Fontan surgery are not always satisfactory. The newly developed technique of NMR velocity mapping may contribute to the elucidation of the Fontan circulation.
Methods: At frequent intervals during the cardiac cycle, forward and backward flow volumes in the pulmonary arteries of nine volunteers were measured, summed and compared with right ventricular stroke volume to validate the velocity mapping technique. In 14 patients after Fontan surgery, assessment of pulmonary flow volumes enabled the evaluation of atriopulmonary and atrioventricular (AV) Fontan connections. The findings were correlated with precordial echocardiography.
Results: Validation of the NMR technique, obtained from volunteer experiments, showed a high correlation (r = 0.97) between right ventricular stroke volume and volumetric pulmonary stroke flow. In all patients with an atriopulmonary Fontan connection (n = 8), forward flow in the pulmonary artery was biphasic, similar to normal venous flow. Monophasic systolic pulmonary flow curves indicating right ventricle-dependent pulmonary blood flow were found in three of six patients with an AV Fontan connection. In the remaining three patients, the pulmonary flow pattern did not reflect right ventricular contraction. Measurement of flow velocity alone may give a false impression of forward flow and thus of right ventricular contribution. Pulmonary regurgitation was demonstrated in six of eight patients with an atriopulmonary connection.
Conclusions: Nuclear magnetic resonance velocity mapping provides accurate and valuable information on pulmonary flow volume and velocity after Fontan surgery. The success of AV Fontan surgery can be deduced from the presence of a monophasic systolic pulmonary flow pattern as demonstrated by NMR velocity mapping. With NMR flow volume analysis, substantial pulmonary regurgitation occurring after atriopulmonary Fontan surgery can be measured.