Truncus arteriosus (say "TRUNK-us ar-teer-ee-OH-sus") 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.
As the fetus develops in the uterus, there is one main artery, or "trunk," leaving the heart. Before birth, that trunk normally splits into two arteries: the aorta and the pulmonary artery.
In truncus arteriosus, the trunk doesn't split where it's supposed to. Instead of having two separate arteries leaving the heart, there is one big artery that doesn't split in two until after it leaves the heart. So red blood and blue blood get mixed together. The baby's body doesn't get enough oxygen.
Babies with this problem also have a ventricular septal defect. The two bottom chambers of the heart—the left ventricle and right ventricle—are separated by a wall of tissue called a septum. A ventricular septal defect is a hole in this wall. Some of the blood flows through the hole. So the heart pumps too much blood to the lungs and not enough to the rest of the body.
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.
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.
Symptoms may include:
Your doctor will help you understand your choices and what to expect from each of them.
Medicines may be given at first to keep the heart from working too hard.
Surgery is needed to create two separate arteries. If there are other heart defects, they may be repaired at the same time.
Your baby may need more surgery in the future.
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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