Natural history and patterns of recovery of contractile function in single left ventricle after fontan operation

Thierry Sluysmans, Stephen P. Sanders, Mary Van Der Velde, Abraham Matitiau, Ira A. Parness, Philip J. Spevak, John E. Mayer, Steven D. Colan

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

86 Scopus citations


Background. Before the era of the Fontan procedure, the typical course of patients with single left ventricle (LV) consisted of heart failure and death during the second or third decade of life. Despite the advent of effective palliative therapy, ventricular dysfunction remains a significant clinical problem for these patients. Methods and Results. To investigate the causes of ventricular dysfunction in these patients and to determine whether Fontan-type repair reverses deterioration of LV function, the ventricular dimensions, volume, shape, wall stress, and systolic function were determined by echocardiography in 84 patients 0.2-35 years old with double-inlet single LV or tricuspid atresia. Measurements were obtained in 67 patients after palliation (arterial shunt or pulmonary artery band) and in 47 patients a median of 4.4 years after a Glenn (n=9) or a Fontan operation (n=38). Before a Fontan procedure, ventricular volumes were 2 to 3 times normal. Ventricular afterload, assessed as circumferential and meridional end-systolic wall stress, became abnormal after 2 years of age. With age, LV shape changed progressively from ellipsoidal to spherical, as indicated by the decrease in long axis : short axis ratio from normal (1.9) toward unity. Concomitantly, the ratio of circumferential to meridional end-systolic wall stress fell from 1.3 to unity, the ratio of a sphere at equilibrium. This age-related change in shape and load occurred in concert with progressive deterioration of LV systolic function and contractility. Aortic oxygen saturation, an indicator of pulmonary blood flow and therefore volume work in single-ventricle physiology, was inversely and independently correlated with contractility. In the group of patients in whom a Glenn or a Fontan operation was performed at <10 years of age, ventricular dimensions, volumes, and wall stress diminished and LV function and contractility improved after surgery (p<0.001). In patients undergoing surgery after 10 years of age, few had improvement of LV function after surgery. Postoperative ventricular function and contractility were inversely related to age at surgery and to aortic oxygen saturation measured before surgery. Conclusions. Although Fontan-type repair of single ventricle early in life is associated with reversal of the abnormal contractile mechanics associated with age and volume load, this capacity for recovery diminishes with age at surgery.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1753-1761
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Dec 1992
Externally publishedYes


  • Atresia, tricuspid
  • Ventricular function
  • Ventricular shape

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine
  • Physiology (medical)


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