Orthotopic cardiac transplantation for the failing Fontan circulation

Eur J Cardiothorac Surg. 1998 Jul;14(1):7-13; discussion 13-4. doi: 10.1016/s1010-7940(98)00130-4.


Objective: Modified Fontan procedures are now employed in several conditions unsuitable for bi-ventricular repair. Selection criteria have been relaxed. The procedure is palliative. Longterm outlook is unknown. This study evaluated factors associated with the development of a failing Fontan circulation and transplantation results.

Methods: Retrospective review of patients referred to a single centre for cardiac transplant assessment.

Results: Between 1985 and 1996, 46 of 448 cardiac transplants were performed for congenital heart disease. Nine of these were performed in patients with a failing Fontan circulation (four adults, five children). In six cases, the dominant ventricle had left ventricular (LV) morphology. Congenital anomalies included double outlet right ventricle (three cases), double inlet left ventricle (two cases), tricuspid atresia (two cases), and pulmonary atresia with intact ventricular septum (one case). Fontan procedures were performed in absence of sinus rhythm (four cases), atrio-ventricular (AV) valve regurgitation (two cases), aortic regurgitation and systolic LV dysfunction (one case), elevated mean pulmonary artery pressure (one case), and older age (>7 years, eight cases). Three patients required early re-operation and two needed permanent pacing. Subsequent deterioration associated with loss of sinus rhythm (four cases) and progressive AV valve regurgitation (seven cases) led to transplant assessment (at < 1 year, five cases; at 2-12 years, four cases). All patients were listed for transplantation. Three patients required intravenous inotropic support and three patients with lymphocytotoxic antibodies needed prospective crossmatching. Donor cardiectomy was modified to facilitate implantation. The recipient operation involved pulmonary artery reconstruction (using pericardium), modified atrial and direct caval anastomoses. Three patients died within 24 h of surgery (two graft failures, one haemorrhage). In operative survivors (n = 6), intensive care stay was 3-16 days, and hospital stay ranged from 14 to 32 days. There have been no subsequent deaths (follow up, 0.5-4.7 years).

Conclusion: In high-risk Fontan candidates, transplantation may be preferable at the outset. Previous surgery, lymphocytotoxic antibodies, indeterminate pulmonary vascular resistance, emergency status, sub-optimal donor selection, and perioperative bleeding contribute to peri-operative mortality. In survivors, the outcome remains very encouraging.

MeSH terms

  • Antilymphocyte Serum
  • Cardiomyopathies / surgery
  • Child, Preschool
  • Fontan Procedure*
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / physiopathology
  • Heart Defects, Congenital / surgery*
  • Heart Transplantation* / mortality
  • Hospital Mortality
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Myocardial Ischemia / surgery
  • Pulmonary Artery / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Survival Analysis
  • Treatment Failure
  • Vascular Resistance


  • Antilymphocyte Serum