It is with sadness we report the death of François Fontan, pioneer of the eponymous operation for the palliation of patients with single ventricle morphologies.
Born in 1929, Fontan studied medicine in Bordeaux. He started his surgical training in 1952 and trained in both Cardiac Surgery and Cardiology, later being appointed professor in this department.
Fontan was the first to complete the anatomic separation of oxygenated and deoxygenated venous blood by bypassing the heart, channelling IVC blood to the pulmonary arteries directly thereby achieving physiologic palliation. His first report of 3 patients was published in 1971. Initially all had tricuspid atresia as it was believed that the hypertrophied right atrium could act as a source of power to support the pulmonary circulation; the first operation involved connecting the right atrium as a structure to the pulmonary arteries using valved conduits.
Since this time there have been many modifications to the operation both in the construction of the bypass channel as well as broadening the application of the technique to other single ventricle morphologies so that nowadays the 'Fontan procedure' is generally expected to be the destination palliation of patients with all single ventricle morphologies. But he will always be remembered as the father of this influential procedure.
As well as being an accomplished surgeon Fontan was an active researcher and innovator. He was a founding member of the European Association for Cardiothoracic Surgery in an initiative to improve the quality of scientific research in Europe.
Mr Andrew Parry
Ordinary Council Member, British Congenital Cardiac Association