Stollery joins global network for research on heart defects

December 15, 2022

The Fontan Outcomes Network will help connect Stollery care teams, and patients and families, with experts across North America.

Facility to contribute to, and benefit from, learning and data from around world

EDMONTON — The Stollery Children’s Hospital is the first hospital in Canada to join the Fontan Outcomes Network (FON), dedicated to improving outcomes and quality of life for people with single ventricle heart defects.

FON is an international learning health network, created by and for patients, families, clinicians and researchers. The network’s data enables treatment discoveries and transforms research into practice to improve outcomes for individuals with single ventricle heart defects, a complex congenital condition in which a child is born with only one functional pumping heart chamber. Treatment typically involves three surgeries, done within the first three to five years of the child’s life. The last of the three surgeries is known as the Fontan procedure: the heart is reconstructed to enable the remaining functional heart chamber to pump blood out to the body.

“Single-ventricle defects are relatively rare, so an individual single centre like ours, as well as other large programs, don’t have enough patients to do high-quality research and quality improvement projects,” says cardiologist Dr. Andrew Mackie, Stollery Children’s Hospital and Stollery Science Lab Distinguished Researcher. “Being part of the Fontan Outcomes Network allows us to contribute data to a registry, and that registry allows us to participate in research studies, to better understand the early detection and treatment of Fontan-related complications.”

Over the past 50 years, researchers and care teams have made extraordinary advances in treatment for people with single ventricle congenital heart defects, and those individuals are living longer than ever. However, care for these individuals can vary from one hospital to another and there are many unknowns about their long-term outcomes. Patients often encounter various lifelong complications that can lead to hospitalizations. The opportunity to share information through the FON could lead to fewer complications and improved outcomes for patients.

Megan Callbeck’s 10-year-old daughter, Lyla, was born with a heart defect. Callbeck is excited about the possibilities the Fontan Outcomes Network could bring.

“When I was pregnant with Lyla, I was asked if Lyla could be part of a research study and I always say yes to those opportunities,” Callbeck says. “Someone once said to me, ‘This may not help Lyla but you’re going to help the next kid,’ and I held on to that and I truly believe that. Research helps to advance the knowledge that we already have but also to help with the unknown.”

Stollery’s FON membership is supported by Alberta Health Services and the Stollery Children’s Hospital Foundation, through the Women and Children’s Health Research Institute.

Alberta Health Services is the provincial health authority responsible for planning and delivering health supports and services for more than four million adults and children living in Alberta. Its mission is to provide a patient-focused, quality health system that is accessible and sustainable for all Albertans.