What is tetralogy of fallot?

Tetralogy of Fallot

Tetralogy of Fallot is a condition in which a child is born with the following four different heart problems:

Overriding aorta.

Normally the large blood vessel that carries blood to the body (aorta) receives only oxygen-rich blood from the left side of the heart. With an overriding aorta, the aorta gets blood from both lower chambers of the heart. This lets oxygen-poor blood mix with oxygen-rich blood, allowing oxygen-poor blood to flow to the body.

Ventricular septal defect (VSD).

A ventricular septal defect is an opening in the heart wall (septum). In tetralogy of Fallot, there is a very large opening in the wall between the lower heart chambers (ventricles). This lets oxygen-poor blood mix with oxygen-rich blood, allowing oxygen-poor blood to flow to the body.

Pulmonary stenosis.

In tetralogy of Fallot, there is also a narrowing (stenosis) of the pulmonary valve between the lower right heart chamber and the pulmonary artery, which carries blood to the lungs. The narrow valve lets less blood flow through the pulmonary artery to the lungs.

Thickened right lower chamber of the heart.

Because the pulmonary valve is narrowed, it is more difficult for blood to be pumped out of the lower right chamber of the heart. This makes the heart chamber thicker.

A baby who has tetralogy of Fallot needs surgery to repair the problems.

People who have had tetralogy of Fallot surgically repaired can usually do most normal activities. But competitive sports and strenuous exercise may need to be restricted. The person needs to be closely monitored by a doctor to detect and treat any problems right away.

What are the symptoms of tetralogy of Fallot in newborns?

Symptoms of tetralogy of Fallot may include:

  • A blue tint to the skin, lips, or fingernails.
  • Fast breathing.
  • Sweating while feeding.
  • Not eating well.
  • Being fussy a lot of the time.

How is tetralogy of Fallot treated in newborns?

Your doctor will help you understand your baby's condition, your treatment choices, and what to expect from each choice.

Your baby may get medicine that helps keep red blood flowing to the body. The medicine may be given through a blood vessel in the belly button.

Your baby will need open-heart surgery to repair the problems.

How is tetralogy of Fallot in newborns diagnosed?

Your doctor may hear abnormal heart sounds, such as a heart murmur, when examining your newborn.

Your doctor will order tests to find the cause of abnormal sounds or of symptoms. The most common test used to identify this problem is called an echocardiogram, or "echo" for short. It uses sound waves to make an image of your baby's heart.

Your baby may have other tests, such as an EKG (electrocardiogram), chest X-ray, and checking the amount of oxygen in the blood.

A fetal ultrasound, which lets your doctor see an image of your baby before birth, sometimes finds this problem.

How can you care for your newborn who has tetralogy of Fallot?

Your doctor will make sure that you have all the information you need to take care of your baby. Your child's care team can show you how to help your baby. You can also ask the hospital staff about counseling and support.

What is tetralogy of Fallot in newborns?

Tetralogy of Fallot (say "fuh-LOH") is a type of congenital heart disease. Congenital heart disease refers to heart problems a baby is born with. These heart problems are usually diagnosed at or before birth.

Fallot is the name of a doctor who found this problem. A "tetralogy" is a group of four related things. So this heart problem is actually a set of four different problems in the baby's heart.

The heart has two main jobs: send oxygen-rich blood (red blood) from the lungs out to the body, and bring oxygen-poor blood (blue blood) from the body back to the lungs. The four problems in tetralogy of Fallot keep the heart from doing these jobs well. The problems include:

  • Ventricular septal defect. This is an opening, or hole, between the two lower chambers of the heart, the ventricles. The hole lets red blood and blue blood mix before the blood flows out to the body.
  • Overriding aorta. The large blood vessel called the aorta normally carries red blood from the left ventricle out to the body. An overriding aorta is attached to the heart in the wrong place. Instead of sitting on top of the ventricle, it sits on top of the ventricular septal defect. So instead of getting red blood, it gets a mixture of red and blue blood.
  • Pulmonary stenosis. The heart sends blue blood to the lungs through the pulmonary valve. "Stenosis" means the valve—and sometimes the pulmonary artery—are too narrow. Less blood flows to the lungs to pick up oxygen.
  • Thickened right ventricle. Because of pulmonary stenosis, the right ventricle has to work harder to pump enough blood to the lungs. This makes the ventricle wall thicker and leaves less room for pumping blood.

These heart problems keep your baby's body from getting enough oxygen.

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