We aimed to investigate whether early postoperative extubation following the Fontan operation is universally feasible and can be used as a management tool in unstable patients.
All patients undergoing the Fontan operation in our centre between 2004 and 2013 (n=253) were analysed. Until 2008, patients were extubated according to standard criteria and comprised group 1. Group 2 included all patients presenting after 2009, when early extubation was always aimed regardless of the haemodynamic status. Patients who exceeded the 75th percentiles for volume requirements and inotrope scores for the respective group were defined as unstable. Comparisons of outcomes between groups and subgroups and analysis of the changes in haemodynamic and treatment parameters with extubation in unstable patients after 2009 were performed.
Compared with group 1, patients from group 2 were ventilated for shorter duration (p<0.001), had similar re-intubation rates (p=0.50), and needed less volume (p=0.01). In group 2, the unstable patients were not ventilated for longer durations (p=0.19), but had higher re-intubation rates (p=0.03) than the stable patients. Compared with the unstable patients from group 1, the unstable patients from group 2 were ventilated for shorter duration (p<0.001), had similar re-intubation rates (p=0.66), and needed less volume (p=0.006). There was a significant acute and sustained increase in mean arterial pressure with extubation and a parallel reduction in volume requirements and inotrope scores in the unstable patients from group 2.
Timely extubation is universally applicable following the Fontan operation. Early postoperative extubation can be valuable for improving Fontan haemodynamics.