Computer Assisted Fontan Surgery

I just don’t “get” the Fontan. At all.

I was recently asked by a CHD organization to write an article about the Fontan Procedure for their newsletter. I had to turn them down; I had to say that no matter how many diagrams I studied, and how many textbooks I have read, I just don’t see how that operation works. Thankfully there are people who are a lot smarter than I am who know how to explain it, and a few of them understand how to surgically alter a defective heart to make the Fontan work. Thank goodness for that, because if they didn’t, there would be a lot fewer of us around.

I was scheduled for a Fontan in 1988; that surgery went completely wrong and they barely got me off the table. I never got the Fontan, but many others from that time period have needed a Fontan Revision or Fontan Conversion. (After clicking the link, pay close attention to Section V.)

One of the difficulties in understanding lies in the fact that the Fontan has several variations, and is almost “customized” for the patient. Now there is a new computer simulation available to test various versions of the Fontan on a defective heart. The simulation will help determine blood flow patterns to help surgeons choose which variation of the Fontan works best for that patient.

The two researchers who developed the computer simulation have also designed a Y-shaped graft to be used as part of the Fontan. The Y connected will be used to join the Inferior Vena Cava (The major blood vessel leading to the heart from the lower part of the body) to both branches of the Pulmonary Artery, not just the single connection that is used now. According to the Abstract, the Y graft “is expected to be put into clinical use within a few months.” I am not sure if that means it is ready for clinical trials or has passed the trials and is ready for real world use.

Either way, these developments look promising!


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One Response to “Computer Assisted Fontan Surgery”

  1. Shannon Carter Says:

    You are so full of information and resources!! It really blows my mind at how you keep up with all of the ‘heart news’ going on, but I’m so glad you do! And even more glad that you take the time to share it with us and give great explanations (or at least links to them). I have to admit, I learn a lot from you, yet after I am finished reading I have even more questions! In a good way, though. 🙂

    I’m doing all I can to learn as much as possible about the Fontan (and the bi-directional Glenn, b/c Derrick will be having that one next month). Thanks again for sharing and helping to educate me!

    Shannon Carter

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