Hypocholesterolemia is a marker of liver disease, and patients with a Fontan circulation may have hypocholesterolemia secondary to Fontan-associated liver disease or inflammation. We investigated circulating lipids in adults with a Fontan circulation and assessed the associations with clinical characteristics and adverse events.

Methods and Results

We enrolled 164 outpatients with a Fontan circulation, aged ≥ 18 years, in the Boston Adult Congenital Heart Disease Biobank and compared them with 81 healthy controls. The outcome was a combined outcome of nonelective cardiovascular hospitalization or death. Participants with a Fontan (median age, 30.3 [interquartile range, 22.8–34.3 years], 42% women) had lower total cholesterol (149.0±30.1 mg/dL versus 190.8±41.4 mg/dL, P< 0.0001), low‐density lipoprotein cholesterol (82.5±25.4 mg/dL versus 102.0±34.7 mg/dL, P< 0.0001), and high‐density lipoprotein cholesterol (42.8±12.2 mg/dL versus 64.1±16.9 mg/dL, P< 0.0001) than controls. In those with a Fontan, high‐density lipoprotein cholesterol was inversely correlated with body mass index (r=−0.30, P< 0.0001), high‐sensitivity C‐reactive protein (r=−0.27, P=0.0006), and alanine aminotransferase (r=−0.18, P=0.02) but not with other liver disease markers. Lower high‐density lipoprotein cholesterol was independently associated with greater hazard for the combined outcome adjusting for age, sex, body mass index, and functional class (hazard ratio [HR] per decrease of 10 mg/dL, 1.37; 95% CI, 1.04–1.81 [P=0.03]). This relationship was attenuated when log high‐sensitivity C‐reactive protein was added to the model (HR, 1.26; 95% CI, 0.95–1.67 [P=0.10]). Total cholesterol, low‐density lipoprotein cholesterol, and triglycerides were not associated with the combined outcome.


The Fontan circulation is associated with decreased cholesterol levels, and lower high‐density lipoprotein cholesterol is associated with adverse outcomes. This association may be driven by inflammation. Further studies are needed to understand the relationship between the severity of Fontan‐associated liver disease and lipid metabolism.

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Notes/Citation Information

Published in Journal of the American Heart Association, v. 10, no. 7, 019578.

© 2021 The Authors

This is an open access article under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs License, which permits use and distribution in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited, the use is non-commercial and no modifications or adaptations are made.

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Funding Information

This work was conducted with support from Harvard Catalyst/The Harvard Clinical and Translational Science Center (National Center for Research Resources and the National Center for Advancing Translational Sciences, National Institutes of Health Award UL1 TR001102, Harvard University, and its affiliated academic healthcare centers). A.R.O. and F.W. were supported by the Dunlevie Family Fund

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