My Chart

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care Providers

We have a highly skilled team who can provide a wide range of services from diagnosis to treatment.

Find a Provider

Fontan Procedure

The Fontan procedure is the third and final-stage surgery to treat hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS). Babies with HLHS have only one ventricle. This means that low-oxygen blood from the lower part of the body mixes with high-oxygen blood.

The Fontan procedure improves blood flow from the lower body to the lungs by redirecting blood flow. The inferior vena cava (IVC) is disconnected from the heart and routed directly to the pulmonary artery. The blood picks up oxygen without having to pass through the heart, which decreases the workload of the single ventricle. The heart delivers only high-oxygen blood to the body.

Fontan is usually done when the patient is 2-5 years of age.

Children with high pulmonary vascular resistance may not tolerate a Fontan procedure. Cardiac catheterization can be done to check the resistance before doing surgery to make sure the Fontan surgery is appropriate.


Why choose Presbyterian for your Fontan procedure?

Presbyterian Heart and Vascular Care has the only pediatric and congenital cardiothoracic surgery team in New Mexico. Their team uses some of the most advanced techniques to perform this procedure. These techniques can improve recovery time, reduce complications and provide a quicker return to daily activities.


Who is eligible for a Fontan procedure?

The Fontan procedure is appropriate for patients:

  • In which the single ventricle has not been overworked for a long period of time.

  • The pulmonary arteries grow well without stenosis (narrowing) and have low resistance (or is relaxed).

  • Do not have leaky or tight valves that may hinder the function of the ventricle or the flow of blood to the lungs.

What conditions can be treated with a Fontan procedure?

The Fontan procedure is the third and last of the staged congenital heart defect surgeries performed to treat HLHS and other single ventricle heart defects.


How do I prepare for a Fontan procedure?

The Fontan procedure is a major medical procedure. Several tests will be conducted beforehand. It’s also important to avoid certain medications, foods, or drinks before the procedure. Ask your doctor for instructions.


What should I expect during my Fontan procedure?

The Fontan procedure involves redirecting blood flow from the lower body to the lungs.

  1. The inferior vena cava (IVC) is disconnected from the heart and routed directly to the pulmonary artery. Usually, a large tube, called a conduit, is added to make the connection.

  2. Often, a small hole (fenestration) is created between the Fontan conduit and the right atrium. This lets some blood still flow directly back to the heart and acts as a temporary valve as the lungs get used to the extra flow from the lower part of the body. This hole can be closed later with cardiac catheterization.

Children who have the Fontan procedure usually spend one to two weeks in the hospital to recover. They also get medicines to help the heart and improve blood flow.

In the short term, children can have trouble with fluid build up around the lungs (pleural effusions). This can require a longer stay in the hospital for drainage with chest tubes.


How do I care for my child after the Fontan procedure?

The Fontan procedure is palliative—not curative—but in most cases, it can result in a normal quality of life. To help keep your child as healthy as possible:

  • Go to all doctor visits.

  • Give all medicines as directed.

  • Follow the guidelines from your care team.

Sometimes, the three heart surgeries may not fix all heart problems, or the right ventricle can tire out over time. In these cases, a child may need a heart transplant.