Between 1980 and 1989, 28 patients with pulmonary atresia, ventricular septal defect, and very small pulmonary arteries with major aortopulmonary collateral arteries underwent direct central end-to-side shunts as staging procedures. Age range was 2 months to 32 years, with 19 patients less than 1 year of age. Pulmonary artery diameters ranged from 1 to 4 mm, with 24 less than 3 mm. Two patients (7%; 70% confidence limits, 2% to 16%) died after the shunt, and there were two further deaths after subsequent staging or correction. Acute shunt complications included congestive cardiac failure (mild to moderate, n = 8; severe, n = 3) and endocarditis (n = 1). Proximal right pulmonary artery stenoses have occurred in 75% of patients and left pulmonary artery stenoses, in 50%. Satisfactory pulmonary artery growth was achieved, however, in 16 of 24 hospital survivors investigated postoperatively. Twelve patients have proceeded through unifocalization to biventricular repair (in 2 the ventricular septal defect patch was subsequently fenestrated) with one death (8.3%; 70% confidence limits, 1% to 25%). Eight patients are still in staging, and 4 have been excluded from the program because of inadequate unifocalization. The direct central end-to-side shunt has proven satisfactory in attaining pulmonary artery growth in patients with very small central pulmonary arteries.