Pediatric Fontan Program

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Pediatric Fontan Program

Innovative care after the Fontan procedure

Children’s Health℠ is home to one of the first programs delivering specialized, long-term expert care to patients who undergo the Fontan procedure to correct complex heart defects.

Many children enjoy full and active lives after the Fontan procedure. But they still have complex needs and run the risk of serious complications, including heart failure, problems with their lymphatic system, and problems with organs like the liver, lungs and kidneys. Children’s Health is one of the very few pediatric hospitals in the United States with a program dedicated to helping Fontan patients live long, fulfilling lives.  

Our Fontan program establishes a center of excellence that streamlines lifelong care for Fontan-single ventricle patients. This program focuses on all aspects of a child’s physical and mental health, and addresses any social, learning and neuropsychological disorders.

Our program brings together specialists in heart health, lung health, liver health, social work, nutrition and other areas to treat all aspects of your child’s condition. We provide cutting-edge therapies including complex lymphatic interventions that are available at only a small handful of hospitals. Through our association with UT Southwestern, we are also proud to contribute to research that will improve care for Fontan patients and help them live longer, healthier lives.

Expert care for complex hearts

When children are born with conditions that prevent one side of their heart from functioning, doctors perform a series of surgeries to help the other side function on its own. The third and final surgery, which happens when the baby is 3-5 years old, is called the Fontan procedure.

The program has three major components:

  • Prevention, early identification and treatment of problems associated with heart function, valve leakage and the Fontan pathway.
  • Monitoring and treating the body’s other organs for issues related to the Fontan pathway. Organs like the liver, kidneys, lungs and gastrointestinal tract can be affected by elevated pressure in the veins.
  • Using a wellness program to monitor how children develop and help them stay mentally healthy, build physical strength and endurance, and optimize lung capacity.

Preventing and treating lymphatic issues in Fontan-single ventricle patients

We carefully watch for and treat a wide range of potential complications that are related to heart problems and can arise after the Fontan procedure. One of these involves lymph – a fluid that is part of the immune system – building up in the lungs and causing serious breathing problems. Children’s Health is only the second hospital in the country to perform a special procedure that seals off the abnormal lymphatic channels and thoracic duct where lymph enters the lungs, to help kids with this complication recover and avoid developing it again.

Comprehensive care

Our team of specialists work closely with each other and with families to provide comprehensive, convenient care that includes:

  • Heart, lung, gut, kidney, liver, nutrition and mental health experts coordinating care together. This means our team can evaluate patients from every angle, so we can develop a care plan that addresses all aspects of your child’s health.
  • Whenever possible, appointments with every specialist you need are scheduled in one facility on the same day, to make travel and scheduling easier for families.
  • A direct phone line to our clinic coordinator who can answer questions, whenever you have them.
  • Collaboration with other providers who refer their patients to us, so your doctor and cardiologist can tell us about your child and add our expertise to their care

Meet the Care Team