Anesthetic management of children with medically refractory pulmonary hypertension undergoing surgical Potts shunt

Reese Michael Murray-Torres, Kelly Chilson, Anshuman Sharma

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Scopus citations


Introduction: Pulmonary hypertension in children is associated with high rates of adverse events under anesthesia. In children who have failed medical therapy, a posttricuspid shunt such as a Potts shunt can offload the right ventricle and possibly delay or replace the need for lung transplantation. Intraoperative management of this procedure, during which an anastomosis between the pulmonary artery and the descending aorta is created, is complex and requires a deep understanding of the pathophysiology of acute and chronic right ventricular failure. This retrospective case review describes the intraoperative management of children undergoing surgical creation of a Potts shunt at a single center. Methods: A retrospective case review of all patients under the age of 18 who underwent Potts shunt between April 2013 and June 2022. Medical records were examined, and clinical data of demographics, intraoperative vital signs, anesthetic management, and postoperative outcomes were extracted. Results: Twenty-nine children with medically refractory pulmonary hypertension underwent surgical Potts shunts with a median age of 12 years (range 4 months to 17.4 years). Nineteen Potts shunts (65%) were placed via thoracotomy and 10 (35%) were placed via median sternotomy with use of cardiopulmonary bypass. Ketamine was the most frequently utilized induction agent (17 out of 29, 59%), and the majority of patients were initiated on vasopressin prior to intubation (20 out of 29, 69%). Additional inotropic support with epinephrine (45%), milrinone (28%), norepinephrine (17%), and dobutamine (14%) was used prior to shunt placement. Following opening of the Potts shunt, hemodynamic support was continued with vasopressin (66%), epinephrine (62%), milrinone (59%), dobutamine (14%), and norepinephrine (10%). Major intraoperative complications included severe hypoxemia (21 out of 29, 72%) and hypotension requiring boluses of epinephrine (10 out of 29, 34.5%) but no patient suffered intraoperative cardiac arrest. There were four in-hospital mortalities. Discussion: A Potts shunt offers another palliative option for children with medically refractory pulmonary hypertension. General anesthesia in these children carries high risk for pulmonary hypertensive crises. Anesthesiologists must understand underlying physiological mechanisms responsble for acute hemodynaic decompensation during acute pulmonary hypertneisve crises. Severe physiological perturbations imposed by thoracic surgery and use of cardiopulmonay bypass can be mitigated by aggresive heodynamic support of ventricle function and maintainence of systemic vascular resistance. Early use of vasopressin, before or immidiately after anesthesia induction, in combination with other inotropes is a useful agent during the perioperative care of thes. Early use of vasopressin during anesthesia induction, and aggressive inotropic support of right ventricular function can help mitigate effects of induction and intubation, single-lung ventilation, and cardiopulmonary bypass. Conclusions: Our single center expereince shows that the Potts shunt surgery, despite high short-term mortaility, may offer another option for palliation in children with medically refractory pulmonary hypertension.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)79-85
Number of pages7
JournalPaediatric Anaesthesia
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2024


  • Potts shunt
  • general anesthesia
  • pulmonary hypertension
  • pulmonary hypertensive crises
  • vasopressin


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