Bidirectional Glenn Operation

The normal human heart has four equal-sized pumping chambers; two atrium (a right and left) and two ventricles (right and left). The right side pumps blood to the lungs, and the left side pumps blood to the rest of the body.

Many children are born with chambers which are smaller than they are supposed to be; some examples are single ventricle and hypoplastic left heart syndrome, but there are many different types and subtypes. Amazingly, it has become possible over the years for many of these children to live active and healthy lives despite this serious condition. This is especially true for many children and teenagers in San Diego, as Rady Children’s Hospital-San Diego has performed hundreds of operations for these conditions over the past 30 years, including those listed below.

In most cases, some form of cardiac surgery is required for the child to remain healthy. Several operations are usually required. Small children (newborns and infants) who require surgery usually undergo a shunt operation (see Single Ventricle page) as a first surgery. This allows the child to grow and thrive, and return at an older age for additional work.

At age 4-6 months, infants with these conditions (including both those who have had a shunt and those who have not) will generally undergo an operation called bidirectional Glenn or BDG for short. In this operation, we connect a large vein called the superior vena cava to the pulmonary arteries. This allows this large vein to supply the lungs with blood and serves as a nice shunt, giving the patient several years to grow and thrive further. The operation requires cardiopulmonary bypass. If a previous shunt was performed, the shunt is removed at the time of BDG.

Other procedures can also be performed during the BDG, and if this is necessary for your child, it will be discussed during the consultation. The average hospitalization time is between 7 and 14 days.

Between 2009-2013, we have performed more than 30 BDGs with a 97 percent success rate.