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Primary repair of tetralogy of Fallot in infancy – the effect on growth of the pulmonary arteries and the risk for late reinterventions

  • Renate Kaulitz (a1), Christian Jux (a1), Harald Bertram (a1), Thomas Paul (a1), Gerhard Ziemer (a2) and Gerd Hausdorf (a1)...


We sought to analyse the long-term follow-up after primary repair of tetralogy of Fallot in infancy in the first year of life, paying particular attention to growth of the pulmonary arteries and the need for reintervention. We performed a combined retro- and prospective echocardiographic study, including measurements of the pulmonary valve and right and left pulmonary arteries, indexed to the square root of body surface area, in 62 patients prior to primary repair, 18 to 24 months after this event, and at the most recent follow-up, with a mean of 80.4 ± 24 months. Of these, 38 patients, with an age at operation of 5.0 ± 3.4 months, had presented preoperatively with hypoxic spells or increasing cyanosis. The remaining 24 patients had been asymptomatic, with adequate flow of blood to the lungs. Their age at elective operation was 7.4 ± 3.0 months. A transannular patch was needed in 37 patients (63%). There were 3 early postoperative deaths (4.8%).

Cross-sectional echocardiography revealed a significantly smaller diameter for the pulmonary valve in patients who had been symptomatic preoperatively compared to the asymptomatic patients (1.09 versus 1.3 cm/BSA0.5; p = 0.019). The diameters of the right and left pulmonary arteries did not differ significantly between the groups. Examination of echocardiographic data obtained 18 to 24 months postoperatively in 43 patients revealed a significant increase in the diameter of the pulmonary arteries; 0.83 ± 0.17 cm/BSA0.5 versus 1.1 ± 0.26 cm/BSA0.5 for the diameter of the right pulmonary artery, 0.85 ± 0.2 cm/BSA0.5 versus 1.0 ± 0.25 cm/BSA0.5 for the left pulmonary artery. On comparison between individuals, 18.6% and 25.6% of the patients, respectively, did not show any change in the diameters of their right and left pulmonary arteries, whereas the increase in diameter reached or exceeded the measurements in normal controls in 55.8% and 46.5% of the patients, respectively. On recent follow-up, with a range from 56 to 147 months, no further increase in the indexed diameters of the pulmonaries could be documented in 21 of 33 patients. Of these, 9.1% and 18.2%, respectively, presented with small right and left pulmonary arteries compared with measurements obtained in normal controls. Moderate pulmonary incompetence was found on colour flow mapping in one-third. Of 56 longterm survivors, 8 (14%) had required reinterventions, which were surgical in 6 and achieved by transcatheter techniques in the other 2 patients. Thus, primary correction of tetralogy of Fallot in infancy, with restoration of normal pressures and flows, resulted in sustained increase in the diameters of the right and left pulmonary arteries. It allowed for early normal development of the proximal pulmonary arterial system in most patients regardless of their age and symptomatic status at operation. Patients with persistent subnormal diameter of the pulmonary arteries did not present with significantly elevated right ventricular pressure. Early one-stage repair of tetralogy of Fallot in infancy was associated with a low rate of reinterventions.


Corresponding author

Correspondence to: Renate Kaulitz, MD, Department of Pediatric Cardiology and Pediatric Intensive Care Medicine, University Tuebingen, Hoppe-Seyler-Str. 3, 72076 Tuebingen, Germany. Tel: + 49 7071 298 4751; Fax: + 49 7071 29 5127



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