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Glenn Procedure


Why Does a Baby Need the Glenn Procedure?

In hypoplastic left heart syndrome (HLHS), the left side of the heart doesn't grow as it should, making it smaller and weaker than normal. To survive, babies who are born with this rare heart defect need a series of three surgeries.

The left side of the heart can't be fixed. Instead, the surgeries rebuild parts of the heart and redirect the way blood flows around the body.

They are (in order):

  1. the Norwood procedure
  2. the Glenn procedure
  3. the Fontan procedure

Babies get the Glenn procedure when they're between 4 and 6 months of age.

What Is the Glenn Procedure?

The Glenn procedure is a type of open-heart surgery. The goal is to:

  • Make blood from the upper part of the body (the head, neck, and arms) go directly to the lungs. This lets the blood pick up oxygen without passing through the heart.

For a hypoplastic left heart, the right ventricle has been doing two jobs: pumping blood to the lungs and to the body. After the Glenn Procedure, the right ventricle only has one job:  pumping blood to the body.

What Happens During the Glenn Procedure?

The Glenn procedure redirects blood flow from the upper body to the lungs. In the Glenn procedure:

  1. The superior vena cava (SVC) is disconnected from the heart and connected directly to the pulmonary artery
  2. The shunt placed during the Norwood procedure is removed.

Blood from the upper body now goes to the pulmonary artery, and then to the lungs, without having to go to the heart. And, since blood can now get to the lungs, the shunt is no longer needed.

What Happens After the Glenn Procedure?

Babies usually spend 1 to 2 weeks in the hospital for recovery. During this time, they get-around-the-clock care and monitoring. Medicines are given to help the heart and improve blood flow. 

Once a baby has gained enough weight and is growing well, he or she will be ready for the next procedure.

What's the Next Procedure?

The third surgery is called the Fontan procedure. It's usually done when a child is 18 months to 3 years of age

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: July 2018

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