Role of surgeon intuition and computer-aided design in Fontan optimization: a computational fluid dynamics simulation study


Advocate Children's Hospital


OBJECTIVE: Customized Fontan designs, generated by computer-aided design (CAD) and optimized by computational fluid dynamics simulations, can lead to novel, patient-specific Fontan conduits unconstrained by off-the-shelf grafts. The relative contributions of both surgical expertise and CAD to Fontan optimization have not been addressed. In this study, we assessed hemodynamic performance of Fontans designed by both surgeon's unconstrained modeling (SUM) and by CAD.

Methods: Ten cardiac magnetic resonance imaging datasets were used to create 3-dimensional (3D) models of Fontans. Baseline computational fluid dynamics simulations assessed Fontan indexed power loss (iPL), hepatic flow distribution, and percentage of conduit surface area with abnormally low wall shear stress for venous flow (<1 dyne/cm2). Fontans not meeting thresholds were redesigned using 2 methods: SUM (ie, original venous anatomy without the Fontan was 3D printed and sent to surgeon for Fontan redesign with clay modeling) and CAD (ie, the same 3D geometry was sent to engineers for iterative Fontan redesign guided by computational fluid dynamics). Both groups were blinded to each other's results.

RESULTS: Eight Fontans were redesigned by SUM and CAD methods. Both SUM and CAD redesigns met iPL thresholds. SUM had lower iPL, whereas CAD demonstrated balanced hepatic flow distribution and lower wall shear stress percentage. Wall shear stress percentage shared an inverse relationship with iPL, preventing oversized Fontan designs.

CONCLUSIONS: Customized Fontan conduits with low iPL can be created by either a surgeon or CAD. CAD can also improve hepatic flow distribution and prevent oversized Fontan designs. Future studies should investigate workflows that combine SUM and CAD to optimize Fontan conduits.

Document Type


PubMed ID


Link to Full Text