Learning About Tetralogy of Fallot

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What is tetralogy of Fallot?

The heart

The heart is a muscular pump. Its job is to send oxygen-rich blood from the lungs out to the body and bring oxygen-poor blood from the body back to the lungs. Tetralogy of Fallot (say "fuh-LOH") is a set of four different heart defects that a child may have at birth:

  • Overriding aorta. The large blood vessel (aorta) that carries blood to the body gets some blood from the wrong chamber of the heart. Instead of pumping oxygen-rich blood, the heart also lets oxygen-poor blood flow to the body.
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD). VSD is an opening between two chambers of the heart. The opening lets oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood mix before the blood flows to the body.
  • Pulmonary stenosis. One of the heart valves that directs blood from the heart to the lungs is too narrow. That means less blood flows to the lungs to pick up oxygen.
  • Thickened right lower chamber of the heart. Because of pulmonary stenosis, the lower right chamber of the heart has to work harder to pump enough blood to the lungs. This makes the wall of the chamber thicker and leaves less room for pumping blood.

What happens when your child has it?

The heart defects change the way blood flows through the heart, lungs, and body. They can keep your child from getting enough oxygen in all parts of his or her body.

What are the symptoms?

Symptoms of tetralogy of Fallot may include:

  • A bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails that becomes worse when your child is eating or crying.
  • Difficulty breathing.
  • A whooshing or rasping sound made by blood moving through the blood vessels or heart (heart murmur).

How is tetralogy of Fallot treated?

Your doctor will do tests to see how severe the problem is. These tests may include an electrocardiogram (EKG, ECG), echocardiogram, or MRI scan.

Your doctor will fix the defects with surgery. If your child is premature or small, your doctor may do some surgery soon after birth and then more surgery when your child is older.

Your child will need follow-up care in the future to prevent more heart problems.

Once the heart defects are repaired, your child has a good chance of living a healthy, normal life.

Your doctor can tell you if your child should limit activity or participation in sports. Even if your child has restrictions, your doctor can help create exercise plans so that your child can stay healthy and active.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/ed

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Current as of: January 27, 2016