My Glenn Shunt is worth more on eBay!

Yeah, you read that right. My Glenn Shunt would bring a higher price on eBay! Yours? Not so much. I have a classic vintage model, so the price would be higher!

I’m kidding with you, obviously. If you happen to need a Glenn Shunt (or any other heart operation) then the true cost is out of your reach; it’s priceless.

The Glenn Shunt is one of the oldest heart operations around. It was first described in 1951, and Dr. William Glenn of Yale University first reported performing the procedure successfully in 1958. Since he was the first person to routinely have success, the operation bears his name. (If you or someone you know has a Glenn shunt, please click THIS LINK and download and read the PDF file. There is a lot of important information here that you need to know!)

When I tell people I have a Glenn Shunt, the ones who know what I’m talking about will nod their heads knowingly. Most of the time, though, they are still wrong. My Glenn was done in 1967, and I am a proud owner of a Classic Glenn Shunt. Most of the Glenns done today are the Bidirectional Glenn Shunt.

So what’s the difference? Before you describe the Glenn, it helps to have a diagram to help you visualize it. Click HERE for a useful diagram of the heart.

In the Classic Glenn, the Superior Vena Cava (The large vessel that leads into the Right Atrium) is closed near the Right Atrium (usually, it is not cut, but rather sewn closed.) The Pulmonary Artery (the “T” shaped blood vessel that runs under the “loop” formed by the Aorta) is also cut… the right branch of the Pulmonary Artery is disconnected. The hole left by cutting the right branch of the Artery is sewn closed, and then the right branch is connected to the side of the Superior Vena Cava.  By doing this, the Right Atrium is completely removed from the blood flow. Blood coming to the heart through the Superior Vena Cava now goes directly to the Right Lung, and flows back to the Left Atrium normally. Then it goes through the Left Ventricle and back out to the body.

The Bidirectional Glenn was invented, surprisingly, in 1966. While it was around when I had my Classic Glenn in 1967, my operation was the fifth Glenn Shunt (of any kind) that had been performed at Johns Hopkins; so it is a safe assumption that the surgeons weren’t prepared to try the new version just yet. In fact, the Bidirectional Glenn really came into its own in the 1980’s, when it became the second step in the three operation Norwood Procedure used to combat Hypoplastic Left Heart Syndrome (HLHS).  It’s also part of the Fontan Procedure, sometimes performed as a seperate operation as part of a Staged Fontan.  The biggest difference in the two operations is that in the Classic Glenn, the Superior Vena Cava is completely cut and sewn into the right branch of the Pulmonary Artery. In the Bidirectional Glenn the Pulmonary Artery is not cut, which allows blood flow to both lungs.

It’s important for someone with a Congenital Heart Defect (CHD) to know what “version” of an operation they have had. For years, I told doctors “I have a Glenn Shunt,” not knowing that the operation had been changed. After I had told a new doctor that I had a Glenn Shunt, he slapped my X-Ray on the lightboard, took a long pause, and finally said “I don’t know what the hell this is, but it ain’t no Glenn Shunt.” Only after the head of the Cardiology Department came in and said “I haven’t seen one of those in a while!” did I realize that simply saying “Glenn Shunt” wasn’t good enough. Thankfully that snafu occured during a routine office visit and not a crisis visit to an Emergency Department.

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5 Responses to “My Glenn Shunt is worth more on eBay!”

  1. Eli and Me « Adventures of a Funky Heart! Says:

    […] Eli and Me By Steve Good news from Lisa, who’s son Eli had surgery on Monday, February 9: Eli is doing great! Surgeons closed his ASD, resceted a “blob” of extra tissue near the Pulmonary Artery, and then performed the Bi-directional Glenn. Everything went well and Eli was discharged three days later! (And I get to tell you again that the drawing on the Glenn Operation page is not the Bi-directional Glenn… it’s the Unidirectional Glenn, sometimes called the Classic Glenn. It’s the operation that I have!) […]

  2. Stacey LaBelle Says:

    When I was 16 weeks pregnant my daughter was diagnosed in utero to have an absent pulmonary valve as well as a large VSD. The initial cardiologist that reviewed the images told me she would never make it and I was waiting for her to die. There was “nothing” they could do to help her. Naturally I got a better team of doctors and now she is almost 7 months old and will be having a glenn shunt surgery on Monday. I’m not 100% clear of what they are doing. The VSD is WAYY to large for them to safely close and not cause complete heart failure. My mind is in a whirl wind right now.

  3. fmullen Says:

    Hi My daughter Madison is about to have a bi-directional glenn shunt done. She is 6 1/2 mo. She has several different chd’s. The doctor says there is no need to repair her heart because it would just cause her more probs so they will just do a palliation. Since I have read your story I feel alot more confident in Johns Hopkins. If possible I would like to know more about how life is for you.

  4. lender Says:

    the image sucks

    • Steve Says:

      Sorry you feel that way. It’s a nice, simple image, not too complicated for the layman. If you want a different image just google Glenn Shunt and click “image” in the upper left hand corner.

      Steve

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