Transposition of the great arteries 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 "great arteries" are the two main blood vessels attached to the heart: the aorta and the pulmonary artery.
In transposition of the great arteries, the two blood vessels are reversed (transposed).
The baby's body is still getting some red blood because of a small blood vessel that connects the left and right sides of the heart. This blood vessel, called the ductus arteriosus, is normal. It is part of the circulation system before birth. Normally it closes shortly after birth. In a baby with this heart defect, this blood vessel lets red blood mix with blue blood. So the baby's body gets some oxygen, but not enough.
There may be other defects in the baby's heart that will also need treatment. For example, there may be a hole in the wall separating the two sides of the heart. When there is a hole, red blood and blue blood get mixed together instead of staying separate.
Your baby will need special care 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.
Other tests, such as an EKG (electrocardiogram), chest X-ray, and checking the amount of oxygen in the blood, also help identify the problem.
A fetal ultrasound, which looks at the baby's heart, may find this defect before birth.
Some babies have few symptoms at first. But because the body isn't getting enough oxygen, symptoms may later include fast breathing and a blue tint to the skin.
Your doctor will help you understand your choices and what to expect from each choice.
Your baby may get medicine to keep the ductus arteriosus open. This helps keep red blood flowing to the body. It is often given through a blood vessel in the belly button.
Your doctor may do a treatment called heart catheterization. This procedure creates a hole between the upper chambers of the heart. This hole helps red blood mix with blue blood so the baby's body can get more oxygen. Your baby will be asleep during this procedure. The doctor puts a thin tube into a blood vessel in your baby's groin. This tube is called a catheter. The doctor moves the catheter through the blood vessel to the heart. He or she moves special tools through the catheter to the heart to create the hole.
Open heart surgery is needed to cut and switch the two arteries. If there are other heart defects, they may be repaired at the same time.
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
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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