Hemodynamics of Fontan Failure: The Role of Pulmonary Vascular Disease

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Abstract

Background

Nonpulsatile pulmonary blood flow in Fontan circulation results in pulmonary vascular disease, but the potential relationships between pulmonary vascular resistance index (PVRI) and Fontan failure have not been studied. The objective was to determine whether the absence of subpulmonary ventricle in the Fontan circulation would make patients more vulnerable to even low-level elevations in PVRI, and when coupled with low cardiac index, this would identify patients at increased risk of Fontan failure.

Methods and Results

Two hundred sixty-one adult Fontan patients underwent cardiac catheterization; age 26±3 years, men 146 (56%), atriopulmonary Fontan 144 (55%). Patients were divided into 2 groups: those with high PVRI (>2 WU·m2) and low cardiac index <2.5 L min−1 m−2 (group 1, n=70, 30%), and those with normal PVRI and normal cardiac index (group 2, n=182, 70%). Fontan failure was defined by the composite of all-cause mortality, listing for heart transplantation, or initiation of palliative care. There were 68 (26%) cases of Fontan failure during a mean follow-up of 8.6±2.4 years. When compared with group 2, freedom from Fontan failure was significantly lower in group 1: 66% versus 89% at 5 years. The combination of high PVRI and low cardiac index was an independent risk factor for Fontan failure (hazard ratio, 1.84; 95% confidence interval, 1.09–2.85).

Conclusions

When coupled with low cardiac index, even mild elevations in PVRI identify patients at high risk of Fontan failure. This suggests that pulmonary vascular disease is a key mechanism underlying Fontan failure and supports further studies to understand the pathophysiology and target treatments to pulmonary vascular tone in this population.

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