Modified Blalock Taussig shunt: a not-so-simple palliative procedure

Verena Dirks, René Prêtre, Walter Knirsch, Emanuela R Valsangiacomo Buechel, Burkhardt Seifert, Martin Schweiger, Michael Hübler, Hitendu Dave
European Journal of Cardio-thoracic Surgery 2013, 44 (6): 1096-102

OBJECTIVES: Thirty-two consecutive isolated modified Blalock Taussig (BT) shunts performed in infancy since 2004 were reviewed and analysed to identify the risk factors for shunt intervention and mortality.

METHODS: Sternotomy was the only approach used. Median age and weight were 10.5 (range 1-74) days and 2.9 (1.9-4.4) kg, respectively. Shunt palliation was performed for biventricular hearts (Tetralogy of Fallot/double outlet right ventricle/transposition of great arteries_ventricular septal defect_pulmonary stenosis/pulmonary atresia_ventricular septal defect/others) in 21, and univentricular hearts in 11, patients. Hypoplastic left heart syndrome patients were excluded. Two procedures required cardiopulmonary bypass. Median shunt size was 3.5 (3-4) mm and median shunt size/kg body weight was 1.2 (0.9-1.7) mm/kg. Reduction in shunt size was necessary in 5 of 32 (16%) patients.

RESULTS: Three of 32 (9%) patients died after 3 (1-15) days due to cardiorespiratory decompensation. Lower body weight (P = 0.04) and bigger shunt size/kg of body weight (P = 0.004) were significant risk factors for mortality. Acute shunt thrombosis was observed in 3 of 32 (9%), none leading to death. Need for cardiac decongestive therapy was associated with univentricular hearts (P < 0.001), bigger shunt size (P = 0.054) and longer hospital stay (P = 0.005). Twenty-eight patients have undergone a successful shunt takedown at a median age of 5.5 (0.5-11.9) months, without late mortality.

CONCLUSIONS: Palliation with a modified BT shunt continues to be indicated despite increased thrust on primary corrective surgery. Though seemingly simple, it is associated with significant morbidity and mortality. Effective over-shunting and acute shunt thrombosis are the lingering problems of shunt therapy.

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