Truncus arteriosus is a heart defect that is present at birth (congenital). It occurs when there is an abnormal connection between the aorta and pulmonary artery. Normally, the aorta and the pulmonary artery are separate.
Another congenital heart defect that nearly always occurs with truncus arteriosus is a ventricular septal defect. This is an abnormal hole in the wall (septum) between the 2 lower chambers of the heart (right and left ventricles).
In truncus arteriosus, oxygen-poor (blue) and oxygen-rich (red) blood mix through the ventricular septal defect. The mixed blood that goes to the body does not have as much oxygen as it should.
Symptoms of truncus arteriosus include:
The symptoms of truncus arteriosus can be like other health conditions. Make sure your child sees his or her healthcare provider for a diagnosis.
A prenatal ultrasound may show truncus arteriosus. After birth, your child's healthcare provider will check your child. He or she may find signs like a pounding heart and weak pulse. He or she may hear an abnormal heart sound (heart murmur) when listening to your child's chest with a stethoscope. If so, you may have been referred to a pediatric cardiologist for a diagnosis. This is a doctor with special training to diagnose and treat heart problems in babies and children.
These specialists will also examine your baby. They will listen to his or her heart and lungs with a stethoscope. Your baby may have other tests, including:
Treatment will depend on your child’s symptoms, age, and general health. It will also depend on how severe the condition is.
Truncus arteriosus must be treated with surgery to fix the defects. But your child may need medical support until it is time for the operation to take place. Support may include:
Nutritional support may include:
Surgery is usually done within the first few weeks after birth to prevent lung damage. The pulmonary arteries are separated from the aorta and re-attached to the right ventricle. The pulmonary arteries may be re-attached directly to the right ventricle or the surgeon may use an artificial tube graft to re-attach them. The ventricular septal defect is also closed. Your child will stay in the hospital until after the surgical repair.
If not treated, truncus arteriosus may cause complications such as:
Soon after surgery, babies have more energy and start to eat better and gain weight faster. But your baby may need high-calorie formula for several weeks or months after surgery. Your baby may also need tube feedings until he or she is able to feed better.
Your baby may become tired easily, and sleep more right after surgery. But within a few weeks, he or she should be fully recovered.
You may get other instructions from your child's cardiac team and the hospital staff.
Most children who have had truncus arteriosus surgical repair will live healthy lives. Their activity levels, appetite, and growth will usually return to normal. Talk with your child's cardiologist about what activities and sports are safe for your child.
Your child may need more surgery as he or she grows. Surgery in young adulthood may also be needed. These surgeries may entail replacing valves, repairing a narrowed aorta or pulmonary arteries, or replacing conduits.
The cardiologist may recommend that your child take antibiotics surgery or dental procedures. This is to prevent infection in the lining of the heart and heart valves (bacterial endocarditis).
Your child will need regular follow-up care at a pediatric or adult congenital cardiac care center throughout life.
Talk with the cardiologist about your child’s outlook.
Tips to help you get the most from a visit to your child’s healthcare provider:
The University of Chicago Medicine
5841 S. Maryland Avenue
Chicago, IL 60637 | 773-702-1000
Appointments: Call UCM Connect at 1-888-824-0200