Blade and balloon atrial septostomy for left heart decompression in patients with severe ventricular dysfunction on extracorporeal membrane oxygenation

Paul M. Seib, Sherry C. Faulkner, Christopher C. Erickson, Stephen H. Van Devanter, James E. Harrell, James W. Fasules, Elizabeth A. Frazier, W. Robert Morrow

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

154 Scopus citations


Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation (ECMO) is used as circulatory support or bridge to transplantation in patients with severe left ventricular (LV) dysfunction. Left heart decompression is needed to reduce pulmonary edema, prevent pulmonary hemorrhage, and reduce ventricular distention that may aid in recovery of function. We reviewed our experience from November 1993 to December 1997 with 10 patients having severe LV dysfunction (7 myocarditis, 3 dilated cardiomyopathy) who required circulatory support with ECMO and who underwent left heart decompression with blade and balloon atrial septostomy (BBAS). Patients ranged in age from 1 to 24 years (median, 3 years). Indications for BBAS included left atrial/left ventricular distension (10), pulmonary edema/hemorrhage (9), or severe mitral regurgitation (2). BBAS was performed electively in eight patients and urgently in two patients. BBAS was performed while on ECMO in seven patients and pre-ECMO in three. A femoral venous approach was used in all patients. ECMO patients were fully heparinized. Transseptal puncture was required in nine patients while one patient had a patent foramen ovale. Blade septostomy was performed in all patients. Enlargement of the defect was then performed by stationary balloon dilation in nine and Rashkind balloon atrial septostomy in one. Balloon diameters ranged from 10 to 20 mm. Sequential balloon inflations were performed in some patients. Adequacy of the atrial septal defect (ASD) was confirmed by pressure measurement and echocardiography. Adequate left heart decompression was achieved in all patients. Pulmonary edema improved in nine of nine patients. Left atrial mean pressure fell from a mean of 30.5 mm Hg, (range, 12-50 mm Hg) to 16 mm Hg (range, 9-24 mm Hg). Left atrial to right atrial pressure gradient fell from a mean of 20 mm Hg pre-BBAS to 3 mm Hg post-BBAS. ASDs ranged in size from 2.5 to 8 mm (mean, 5.9 mm). Complications included needle perforation of the left atrium without hemodynamic compromise (one), ventricular fibrillation requiring defibrillation (one), and hypotension following BBAS which responded to volume infusion (two). Duration of ECMO ranged from 41 hr to 704 hr (mean, 294 hr). Seven patients survived and four patients had recovery of normal LV function. Of those who recovered, two had no ASD at follow-up while two ASDs are patent 14 days and 3 months post-BBAS. Three patients underwent successful cardiac transplantation. Three patients died, all of whom had multisystem organ failure with or without sepsis. A patent ASD was noted at transplant (three) or autopsy (two). No patient required a second BBAS. BBAS alleviates severe left atrial hypertension and pulmonary edema. In addition, BBAS avoids the potential bleeding complications of surgical left heart decompression. Stationary balloon dilation of the atrial septum is an effective alternative to Rashkind balloon septostomy in older patients. BBAS achieves left heart decompression that may permit recovery of LV function or allow extended ECMO support as a bridge to transplant.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)179-186
Number of pages8
JournalCatheterization and Cardiovascular Interventions
Issue number2
StatePublished - 1999
Externally publishedYes


  • Balloon
  • Extracorporeal membrane oxygenation
  • Septostomy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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