Long-term outcomes of warfarin versus aspirin after Fontan surgery

Published:January 04, 2021DOI:



      Because of the nature of the Fontan physiology, patients are at an increased risk of thromboembolic complications. As such, warfarin or aspirin is generally prescribed lifelong for thromboprophylaxis. This study aimed to compare long-term rates of cerebrovascular injury, thrombosis, bleeding, bone mineral density, and quality of life in people living with Fontan circulation receiving warfarin compared with aspirin.


      This was a multicenter study of a selected cohort from the Australia and New Zealand Fontan population. Participants underwent cerebral magnetic resonance imaging to detect the presence of cerebrovascular injury (n = 84) and dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry to assess bone mineral density (n = 120). Bleeding (n = 100) and quality of life (n = 90) were assessed using validated questionnaires: Warfarin and Aspirin Bleeding assessment tool and Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory, respectively.


      Stroke was detected in 33 participants (39%), with only 7 (6%) being clinically symptomatic. There was no association between stroke and Fontan type or thromboprophylaxis type. Microhemorrhage and white matter injury were detected in most participants (96% and 86%, respectively), regardless of thromboprophylaxis type. Bleeding rates were high in both groups; however, bleeding was more frequent in the warfarin group. Bone mineral density was reduced in our cohort compared with the general population; however, this was further attenuated in the warfarin group. Quality of life was similar between the warfarin and aspirin groups. Home international normalized ratio monitoring was associated with better quality of life scores in the warfarin group.


      Cerebrovascular injury is a frequent occurrence in the Australia and New Zealand Fontan population regardless of thromboprophylaxis type. No benefit of long-term warfarin prophylaxis could be demonstrated over aspirin; however, consideration must be given to important clinical features such as cardiac function and lung function. Furthermore, the association of reduced bone health in children receiving warfarin warrants further mechanistic studies.

      Graphical abstract

      Key Words

      Abbreviations and Acronyms:

      ANZ (Australia and New Zealand), BMD (bone mineral density), CI (confidence interval), DXA (dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry), INR (international normalized ratio), MRI (magnetic resonance imaging), OR (odds ratio), PedsQL (Pediatric Quality of Life Inventory), QoL (quality of life), REDCap (Research Electronic Data Capture), WA-BAT (Warfarin and Aspirin Bleeding assessment tool)
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