Characterization and surgical ablation of atrial flutter after the classic Fontan repair

Sanjiv K. Gandhi, Burt I. Bromberg, Richard B. Schuessler, Bryan J. Turken, John P. Boineau, James L. Cox, Charles B. Huddleston

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35 Scopus citations


Background. Atrial flutter (AFL) is a frequent postoperative complication of the classic Fontan operation, which uses an atriopulmonary connection. We hypothesized that the suture lines alone, in the absence of any hemodynamic alterations, provide the necessary electrophysiologic substrates for AFL. The objectives of this study were to determine if the Fontan suture lines alone are sufficient to permit sustained AFL in an acute canine model and to characterize any resulting reentrant circuits to surgically ablate the AFL. Methods. After cardiopulmonary bypass, adult dogs (n = 18) underwent a simulated classic Fontan operation. This included a longitudinal right atriotomy and an incision from the base of the right atrial appendage toward the dome of the left atrium, representing the atriopulmonary connection. In 6 of 18 dogs, an atrial septal defect was created at the level of the fossa ovalis. Unipolar 253-point biatrial endocardial mapping electrodes were placed via bilateral ventriculotomies. Induction of AFL was attempted by atrial burst pacing. If AFL could not be induced, isoproterenol was administered and pacing repeated. Activation sequence maps of the pathways of atrial reentry were generated. In 8 dogs with inducible AFL, an incision was made from the atriotomy to the atriopulmonary connection and burst pacing repeated. Results. Sustained AFL could not be induced after bypass alone in any case. After the simulated Fontan operation, sustained AFL was reproducibly induced in all 18 dogs, 6 of which required isoproterenol. The mean cycle length of all cases was 177 ± 20 ms. During AFL, atrial activation sequence maps demonstrated lines of conduction block created by both the atriotomy and the atriopulmonary connection. The isthmus of tissue between these two lines of block was essential for propagation of the reentrant wavefront. Interruption of this isthmus with an incision successfully terminated AFL in 8 of 8 dogs. Conclusions. In an acute canine model, the Fontan suture lines alone, in the absence of atrial hypertension or stretch, permit the induction of AFL. An essential electrophysiologic substrate is an isthmus of myocardium between the atriotomy and the atriopulmonary connection. Interruption of conduction through this isthmus terminates the AFL in this model and suggests a technique for ablation of AFL in patients who have undergone a classic Fontan operation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1666-1679
Number of pages14
JournalAnnals of Thoracic Surgery
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 1996


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