Children's Hospital Colorado

Tetralogy of Fallot

About pediatric tetralogy of Fallot

Tetralogy of Fallot in children is a congenital heart defect that involves the incorrect formation of the septum between the right and left ventricles. This condition results in mixing of oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood across the ventricular septal defect inside the heart. This causes an overall decrease in the amount of oxygen in the blood.

The four functional heart problems that make up a pediatric tetralogy of Fallot are:

  • A hole between the ventricles, the lower chambers of the heart. This is called a ventricular septal defect (VSD).
  • A blockage or kink in the pulmonary artery where blood flows from the heart to the lungs
  • The aorta, the largest blood vessel, lies over the VSD, the hole in the lower chambers of the heart
  • The muscle surrounding the lower right chamber is too thick

Tetralogy of Fallot is a congenital heart condition, meaning children are born with it. The cause of the condition is not known. In some situations, it may be associated with certain genetic syndromes, like Di George syndrome.

Children usually show symptoms of the condition and are diagnosed shortly after birth. With treatment, kids with tetralogy of Fallot can lead normal, healthy lives. However, if your child has tetralogy of Fallot, he or she will need follow-up care to monitor any changes in the heart.

Learn more about our top-ranked Heart Institute for the treatment of this condition.

What are tetralogy of fallot signs and symptoms in kids?

Children with this heart condition often have a blue tint to their skin, lips and fingernails. This is called cyanosis and means that not enough oxygen-rich blood is reaching the child’s body.

Sometimes, a baby only shows signs of cyanosis after crying or feeding. These episodes are called “Tet spells.”

Other tetralogy of fallot symptoms are:

  • Trouble feeding
  • Poor growth and weight gain
  • Fainting
  • Clubbed fingers

If your child is having any of these symptoms, especially cyanosis, contact your doctor immediately.

Learn more about our top-ranked Heart Institute for the treatment of this condition.

Diagnosing tetralogy of fallot

If your doctor suspects your child has a congenital heart defect, he or she will want to do more tests to examine the heart. These tests will help your cardiologist identify the problem affecting your child and create a treatment plan.

Tests that help cardiologists diagnose tetralogy of fallot are:

About tetralogy of fallot treatment at Children's Hospital Colorado

Surgery is the only definitive tetralogy of fallot treatment. At Children's Colorado's Heart Institute, our doctors will likely schedule your child’s surgery by the time he or she turns 1 year old.

During the surgery, a pediatric cardiac surgeon will fix the hole between the ventricles (the ventricular septal defect) using a patch. The surgeon will also widen the pulmonary artery and fix any problems with the pulmonary valve. This repair will help more blood reach the lungs. The entire procedure is known as intra-cardiac repair.

If your child is too ill or too small for intra-cardiac repair, surgeons will create a temporary solution called a shunt. This is a bypass from the aorta to the pulmonary artery, which will increase blood flow to the lungs until your child is big enough for the final procedure.

Your pediatric cardiologist at the Heart Institute will want to monitor your child for many years after the surgery to make sure there are no changes in your child’s heart.

Learn more about heart surgery for the treatment of tetralogy of fallot.


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