Children's Hospital Colorado

Truncus Arteriosus

About truncus arteriosus in children

Truncus arteriosus is a congenital defect in which the two major arteries of the heart (the aorta and the pulmonary artery) fail to separate during development. Instead, there is only one large vessel coming from the heart.

The large artery, known as the truncus arteriosus, has one valve that carries blood from both ventricles. Almost every child with this heart condition also has a hole between the ventricles, known as a ventricular septal defect (VSD). This condition results in too much blood going to the lungs and can result in irreversible damage to the heart and the arteries of the lungs.

Who is at risk for truncus arteriosus?

Truncus arteriosus is a congenital heart defect, meaning it develops as a child is growing in the womb. While doctors do not know exactly what causes truncus arteriosus, there are several common risk factors that may increase the chances of a baby being born with a heart condition.

Children with this heart condition may also have genetic syndromes like DiGeorge syndrome. These and other genetic syndromes require specialized treatments from the experts at Children's Hospital Colorado.

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

What are truncus arteriosus symptoms?

Children with truncus arteriosus are usually diagnosed early in life. Sometimes children develop a blue color on their skin and lips. This is called cyanosis, and it is a sign that not enough oxygenated blood is getting to a child’s body. You should call your doctor immediately if you notice signs of cyanosis.

Other truncus arteriosus symptoms are:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during feeding
  • Sleepiness and fatigue
  • Poor weight gain
  • Sweatiness, especially during feeding

What tests are common to diagnose truncus arteriosus?

Your doctor may hear a murmur when listening to your child’s heart during a physical exam. If your doctor suspects your child might have truncus arteriosus, he or she will order further tests.

An echocardiogram (ECHO) is the best test to diagnose truncus arteriosus. This test will give cardiologists at Children’s Hospital Colorado a moving picture of your child’s heart in action.

Sometimes, a chest x-ray will also be done to see if your child’s lungs have fluid in them.

Read about more tests at the Heart Institute.

About truncus arteriosus treatment at Children's Hospital Colorado

If your child has this condition, he or she will need heart surgery to repair it.

Surgery is recommended within the first few weeks of life. During the procedure, a pediatric cardiac surgeon will close the holes within the heart and separate the pulmonary artery and the truncal artery.

Usually, surgeons will place a tube or conduit from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery. This tube will need to be replaced in the future, usually several years after the first operation as the child grows.

In older children, surgical therapy may not be possible, which is why it is important to diagnose this condition as soon as possible.

Learn why our Heart Institute is the best place for your child’s cardiac surgery.

Recovery and life after heart surgery

After truncus arteriosus treatment, children will spend 2 to 3 weeks in the hospital and have follow-up appointments with a cardiologist.


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