Usefulness of peripheral vascular function to predict functional health status in patients with fontan circulation


After the Fontan operation, patients are at a substantial risk of the development of impaired functional health status. Few early markers of suboptimal outcomes have been identified. We sought to assess the association between peripheral vascular function and functional health status in Fontan-palliated patients. Asymptomatic Fontan patients (n = 51) and age- and gender-matched healthy controls (n = 22) underwent endothelial pulse amplitude testing using a noninvasive fingertip peripheral arterial tonometry (PAT) device. Raw data were transformed into the PAT ratio, an established marker of vascular function. Cardiopulmonary exercise testing was performed using the Bruce protocol. In the Fontan cohort, 94% of patients were New York Heart Association functional class I and 88% had a B-type natriuretic peptide level of <50 pg/ml. The baseline pulse amplitude, a measure that reflects the arterial tone at rest, was greater in the Fontan patients than in the controls (median 2.74, interquartile range 1.96 to 4.13 vs median 1.86, interquartile range 1.14 to 2.79, p = 0.03). The PAT ratio, a measure of reactive hyperemia, was lower in Fontan patients (median 0.17, interquartile range -0.04 to 0.44, vs median 0.50, interquartile range 0.27 to 0.74, p = 0.002). The key parameters of exercise performance, including peak oxygen consumption (median 28.8 ml/kg/min, interquartile range 25.6 to 33.2 vs median 45.5 ml/kg/min, interquartile range 41.7 to 49.9, p <0.0001) and peak work (median 192 W, interquartile range 150 to 246 vs median 330, interquartile range 209 to 402 W, p <0.0001), were lower in Fontan patients than in the controls. The PAT ratio correlated with the peak oxygen consumption (r = 0.28, p = 0.02) and peak work (r = 0.26, p = 0.03). In conclusion, in an asymptomatic Fontan population, there is evidence of reduced basal peripheral arterial tone and vasodilator response, suggesting dysfunction of the endothelium-derived nitric oxide pathway. Vasodilator function appears to correlate with exercise performance. © 2011 Elsevier Inc.

Publication Title

American Journal of Cardiology