Tricuspid atresia (say "try-KUSS-pid uh-TREE-zhuh") is a type of congenital heart defect. Congenital heart defects are heart problems a baby is born with. These heart problems are usually diagnosed at or before birth.
The heart is a muscular pump with four chambers. The two top chambers are the left atrium and right atrium. The two bottom chambers are the left ventricle and the right ventricle. Normally, blood flows from the right atrium into the right ventricle. The tricuspid valve between these two chambers keeps the blood moving forward and prevents backflow.
"Atresia" means "not there." So in tricuspid atresia, the tricuspid valve isn't there. There is no opening. Blood does not flow through the heart as well as it should. The baby does not get the oxygen he or she needs.
The lack of this valve can also cause other problems. The right ventricle usually doesn't develop well and is too small. The aorta and the pulmonary artery—the two main blood vessels leading to and from the heart—may also be too small.
Most babies with this problem also have other heart defects, like an opening between the right and left sides of the heart.
Your baby may need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.
Your doctor may hear abnormal heart sounds, such as a heart murmur, when he or she examines 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 defect 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 ECG or 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 defect.
Symptoms may include:
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 oxygen-rich blood flowing to the body. It is often given through a blood vessel in the belly button.
Your baby will have surgery to help open the blood vessel that carries blood from the heart to the lungs. What the doctor does during surgery depends on how well blood is flowing through the heart and how small the right ventricle is. Your baby will be asleep during the surgery.
Your baby will probably need more than one surgery. The surgeries may be done a few months apart.
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.
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Current as of: December 6, 2017
Thomas M. Bailey, MD, CCFP - Family Medicine
& Martin J. Gabica, MD - Family Medicine
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