Our doctors are among the most skilled in the country at treating babies born with tetralogy of Fallot, a congenital heart defect that has an impact on the way blood moves from the heart to the lungs and makes it difficult for blood to receive enough oxygen. This condition is typically diagnosed before or at birth, and treatment requires cardiac surgery.
Our success rates for all forms of pediatric heart surgery are among the best in the country, which is a reflection of the advanced skill and expertise we bring to the children in our care.
Diagnosing Tetralogy of Fallot
Tetralogy of Fallot is often detected before birth during a prenatal ultrasound or fetal echocardiogram, a scan that provides a detailed picture of your child’s beating heart in the womb. Experts from our Fetal Diagnosis and Treatment Program, including pediatric cardiologists and maternal–fetal medicine specialists, closely monitor you and your baby during pregnancy, and create a plan for delivery.
In some cases, babies are not diagnosed until after birth. A bluish tint to your baby’s skin, often during feeding or crying, can sometimes be the first sign that there is not enough oxygen in his or her blood. Your baby’s pediatrician could also detect a heart murmur, or a blood test might show that your baby’s blood is lacking oxygen. Most people with tetralogy of Fallot are diagnosed in infancy, but in rare cases the condition is not detected until adulthood.
All babies with tetralogy of Fallot are closely monitored by our team at the Pediatric Congenital Heart Program, who develop a treatment plan based on your baby’s individual needs.
Treatment for Tetralogy of Fallot
Babies diagnosed with tetralogy of Fallot require a series of heart surgeries, referred to as complete repair, to treat the defects associated with this condition. This includes procedures to close a hole between the heart’s pumping chambers, repair or replace a narrowed heart valve, and widen the pulmonary arteries to ensure that blood can reach the lungs, mix with oxygen, and circulate effectively through the body. The first of these surgeries typically occurs sometime in the first year of life.
In some situations, such as when your baby’s blood needs more oxygen but is too young for complete heart repair, a temporary operation is performed. During this procedure, a shunt is used to create a new path for blood to travel from the heart to the lungs. Your baby would then have additional surgeries as soon as he or she is developmentally ready.
As they grow, children with tetralogy of Fallot are closely followed by our team at the Pediatric Congenital Heart Program, and as they get older, through the Congenital Heart Transition Program.