Tetralogy of Fallot in Children

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 team at the Pediatric Congenital Heart Program, part of Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone, includes pediatric cardiac surgeons, cardiologists, anesthesiologists, and cardiothoracic nurse practitioners who are experts in the care of children who have tetralogy of Fallot. Our surgeons perform more than 200 pediatric heart surgeries each year, including procedures to treat this condition.

VIDEO: Our experienced team uses the latest technology to treat children who have the most complex heart conditions.

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.

Images of Normal Heart Anatomy and Tetralogy of Fallot Anatomy

Compared with a normal heart, the heart in a child with tetralogy of Fallot has several changes that affect blood flow and make it difficult for blood to receive enough oxygen.
Credit: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, National Center on Birth Defects and Developmental Disabilities

When your baby is born, he or she is cared for in the Congenital Cardiovascular Care Unit (CCVCU), a highly specialized treatment area that is staffed by doctors who have advanced training in cardiac critical care.

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.

We take a family-centered approach that values parents as key participants in a child’s care, and we encourage you to participate in Family-Centered Rounds. We also recognize the emotional challenges that come with having a baby that needs medical care, and encourage you to seek out emotional support, spiritual support, and guidance from other parents through our Sala Family to Family Hours. These child and family support services and resilience programs are provided by Sala Institute for Child and Family Centered Care.

Child and Family Support

When your child needs medical care, we help make the experience easier for the whole family.

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We provide expert, innovative care for infants and children who have congenital heart conditions.
Our specialists work together to provide care for pediatric congenital heart conditions.

Our cardiac surgeons treat children of all ages who have inherited and acquired heart defects.

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