Objectives: Our objectives were twofold: (1) to determine cardiac and respiratory dependency of systemic venous pathway flow of patients having the Fontan operation with a total cavopulmonary connection and (2) to describe the velocity profile. Systemic venous pathway flow is hypothesized to be mostly respiratory dependent, to be laminar, and to have a smooth velocity profile.
Methods: Twenty-two patients having the Fontan operation (aged 8.6 +/- 4.7 years) underwent magnetic resonance blood tagging (bolus tagging). Systemic venous pathway spin-echo images parallel to the blood flow were used as a localizer. A saturation pulse labeled the blood, and a cine image was acquired at the inferior and superior venae cavae and midportion of the baffle in the systemic venous pathway, triggered to the electrocardiogram and gated to both end-expiration and end-inspiration. Repetition time was 50 msec.
Results: Flow in the systemic venous pathway was laminar throughout its course and was found to be phasic to both cardiac and respiratory cycles. Approximately 70% of flow was cardiac dependent, and the rest was respiratory. Highest flow occurred near end-systole and early diastole and in inspiration. Lowest flow occurred in diastasis. Velocity was highest and flow least "pluglike" in the mid-baffle area during cardiac or respiratory imaging (45 +/- 17 and 32 +/- 11 cm/sec, respectively).
Conclusion: A substantial amount of pulmonary blood flow in patients who have undergone a total cavopulmonary connection type of Fontan operation has a cardiac component. Furthermore, we confirm that this flow is laminar but nonuniform across the systemic venous pathway. Highest flows occurred near end-systole and early diastole, as well as in inspiration, and the lowest flow occurred in diastasis. This information may help in designing the systemic venous pathway and optimizing medical management.