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In univentricular (Fontan) physiology, peripheral and splanchnic vascular tone may be raised to counteract reduced cardiac output (CO) and elevated central venous pressure and thus maintain vital organ perfusion. This could negatively affect the normal cardiovascular response to food ingestion, where mesenteric vasodilation and a concurrent rise in CO are central. We sought to elucidate this using rapid cardiovascular MRI. Thirty fasting subjects (50% controls, 40% women and 60% men) ingested a standardized meal. Responses over ~50 min in mean arterial pressure (MAP), CO, and blood flow in all major aortic branches were measured, and regional vascular impedance (Z0) was calculated. Differences from baseline and between groups were assessed by repeated-measures mixed models. Compared with the control group, the Fontan patient group had greater fasting Z0 of the legs and kidneys, resulting in greater systemic Z0 and similar MAP. They further had similar blood flow to the digestive organs at baseline, despite larger variation in mesenteric resistance. Postprandially, blood flow to the legs decreased in the control group but not in the Fontan patient group. Increases in CO and superior mesenteric blood flow were similar in both groups, but the celiac response was blunted in the Fontan patient group. No significant differences in MAP responses were observed. In conclusion, alterations in vascular tone to counteract adverse hemodynamics and raised hepatic afterload may blunt vasoreactivity in the legs and the celiac axis in Fontan physiology. Further study is needed to determine whether blunted celiac or mesenteric vasoreactivity is linked to deteriorating hemodynamics and poor prognosis in Fontan patients.NEW & NOTEWORTHY Novel data on cardiovascular physiology in response to a meal in Fontan patients are presented. Using a previously validated dynamic MRI protocol, we demonstrated that the usual increase in cardiac output and the dilation of the superior mesenteric artery are preserved in clinically well Fontan patients. In contrast, vasoconstriction of the legs may have prevented redistribution of blood flow from this region in response to the meal. This may also affect responses to other types of stress. Celiac vasodilation was also absent in Fontan patients. This may be due to abnormal hepatic circulation. The proposed protocol may be used to study Fontan complications secondary to abnormal regional hemodynamics.

Original publication




Journal article


Am J Physiol Heart Circ Physiol

Publication Date





H808 - H813


Fontan, blood flow, magnetic resonance imagine, postprandial, vascular physiology