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Original research
Modes of late mortality in patients with a Fontan circulation


Objectives The mechanisms of attrition of the Fontan population have been poorly characterised and it is unclear whether some of the deaths are potentially preventable. We analysed the circumstances of late death in patients with a Fontan circulation, with a special focus on identifying lesions amenable to intervention that may have contributed to the decline of their circulation.

Methods Between 1975 and 2018, a total of 105 patients from a Bi-National Registry died beyond 1 year after Fontan completion, at a median age of 18.6 (IQR 13.8–26.0) years old, 12.7 (IQR 6.0–19.3) years after Fontan completion.

Results A total of 105 patients died—63 patients (60%) with an atriopulmonary (AP) Fontan, 21 patients (20%) with a lateral tunnel (LT) and 21 patients (20%) with an extracardiac conduit (ECC). 72 patients (69%) were reviewed within 2 years preceding death, with 32% (23/72) deemed to be clinically well. Fontan circulatory failure was the most common cause of death in 42 patients (45%). Other causes of death included sudden death/arrhythmia (19%), perioperative death (12%), neurological complication (7%) and thromboembolism (7%). All patients with an LT or ECC who died from Fontan failure had at least one surgical defect that was amenable to intervention at time of death.

Conclusions Conventional clinical surveillance has been insensitive in detecting a significant proportion of patients at risk of late death. Fontan circulatory failure contributes to half of the late deaths. Patients with an LT or ECC Fontan who died with a clinical picture of circulation failure may have potentially correctable lesions.

  • Fontan physiology
  • heart failure
  • heart transplantation

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