Morphology and Function of the Lymphatic Vasculature in Patients With a Fontan Circulation

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The Fontan procedure has revolutionized the treatment of univentricular hearts. However, it is associated with severe complications such as protein-losing enteropathy, plastic bronchitis, and peripheral edema that may involve the lymphatic circulation. We aimed to assess lymphatic function and morphology in patients with a univentricular circulation.
The functional state of lymphatic vessels in the lower extremities of patients with a Fontan circulation (n=10) was investigated using the novel technique near-infrared fluorescence imaging and compared with an age-, sex-, and weight-matched control group of healthy volunteers (n=10). The lymphatic morphology was described using T2-weighted magnetic resonance imaging, and microvascular permeability was estimated by strain gauge plethysmography.
The Fontan patients had 17% lower lymphatic pumping pressure (50±3.1 mm Hg) compared with controls (60±2.8 mm Hg; P=0.0341) and a 62% higher contraction frequency (0.8±0.1 min-1) compared with the healthy controls (0.5±0.1 min-1; P=0.0432). Velocity by which the lymph is moved and refill time after manual emptying of the lymphatic vessels showed no differences between the 2 groups. The thoracic duct was elongated 10% ( P=0.0409) and with an abnormal course in the Fontan patients compared with normal. No difference in microvascular permeability was found between the 2 groups.
Patients with a Fontan circulation have an impaired lymphatic pumping capacity and morphologically changed thoracic duct. Our results indicate a challenged lymphatic vasculature in the Fontan circulation and may play a role in the pathogenesis of the complications that are seen in Fontan patients.
Original languageEnglish
Article numbere008074
JournalCirculation: Cardiovascular Imaging
Number of pages15
Publication statusPublished - Apr 2019

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