Living at altitude adversely affects survival among patients with a fontan procedure

Joy T. Johnson, Ian Lindsay, Ronald W. Day, Charlotte S. Van Dorn, James Hoffman, Melanie D. Everitt, Anji T. Yetman

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

19 Scopus citations


Objectives: This study sought to determine whether survival in this cohort of patients was adversely affected by increased residential altitude. Background: The success of the Fontan procedure depends in large part on low pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR). Factors that increase PVR, including an increase in residential altitude, may adversely affect long-term outcome. Higher altitude has been shown to affect functional well-being in patients with a Fontan circulation. Methods: Databases from a tertiary cardiac care center in the Intermountain West (elevation 5,000 feet) were analyzed for patients born with single-ventricle anatomy who would now be of adult age. Complete data were then collected on all identified patients who subsequently underwent the Fontan operation. Correlates of, and time to, adverse outcome, defined as death, cardiac transplantation, or clinical decompensation requiring a move to sea level, were determined. Results: Of 149 patients with single-ventricle anatomy, 103 underwent the Fontan procedure, with 70 surviving to adulthood at moderate altitude. Adverse outcome occurred in 55, with death in 24 (23%), cardiac transplantation in 18 (17%), and clinical decompensation requiring move to sea level in 13 (13%). There was no relationship between type, age at, or era of Fontan procedure and long-term outcome. Correlates of long-term, transplant-free survival at moderate altitude included lower residential altitude (4,296 vs. 4,637 feet, p < 0.001), and lower pulmonary artery pressures before the Fontan procedure (13 vs. 15 mm Hg, p = 0.01), and after (14 vs. 18 mm Hg, p = 0.01). Conclusions Long-term outcome after the Fontan procedure is adversely impacted by higher residential altitude.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1283-1289
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American College of Cardiology
Issue number12
StatePublished - Mar 26 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Altitude
  • Fontan
  • Protein-losing enteropathy
  • Survival

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine


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