Tetralogy of Fallot

What is Tetralogy of Fallot?

Tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) is a rare condition that occurs as a result of four congenital heart abnormalities that affect the organ’s structure. It causes the blood that is oxygen-poor to flow away from the child’s heart to the rest of his body, creating various issues due to insufficient oxygen levels. A child is more likely to develop the disorder if the mother dealt with alcoholism or was infected with a viral illness like rubella during her pregnancy. The baby is also at increased risk if there is a family history.

The four abnormalities that make up Tetralogy of Fallot include a narrow pulmonary valve, a hole in the ventricle wall, an improperly placed aorta, and a thickened heart wall. It is not currently known what causes the condition. The deformities are usually discovered early and diagnosed in infancy or shortly thereafter. However, in some cases, it may not become apparent until the child is older depending on the severity of the condition.

What are the Symptoms of Tetralogy of Fallot?

Patients who were born with tetralogy of Fallot may exhibit a variety of symptoms such as:

  • Blue-tinged skin
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart murmur
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Fainting
  • Inability to exercise
  • Nail deformities
  • Irritability

Some additional indications of the condition in newborns include feeding difficulties, poor weight gain, prolonged crying, and failure to thrive.

Tetralogy of Fallot Causes

Tetralogy of Fallot is a condition that occurs during the development of the fetus, as the heart is forming. While the specific cause is still unknown, studies indicate that certain factors play a part in increasing the risk that a fetus will develop Tetralogy of Fallot. Such factors include the nutritional and dietary habits of the mother, viral infections and illnesses, such as German measles (rubella), and genetic abnormalities.

Additionally, women who use alcohol during pregnancy increase the risk that their baby will develop Tetralogy of Fallot. Diabetes and getting pregnant past the age of 40 are thought to increase the chances of attracting this abnormality, as well. Even where these factors don’t play a part, there’s still the possibility that a fetus will develop Tetralogy of Fallot in cases where the condition has been present in one or more of the parents. There are strong indications that the defect is hereditary.

How is Tetralogy of Fallot Treated?

Within their first year of life, newborns are likely to undergo open-heart surgery to repair the abnormalities. After that, they will require ongoing care. In addition to closely monitoring the condition for any changes, they may be given antibiotics to ward off any potential infections. Though some children will need to be limited in their physical activities, many grow up to live normal lives after surgery. Adults with the condition may be prescribed a vasodilator medication to widen the blood vessels and improve blood flow.

Tetralogy of Fallot Prevention

Because the direct cause of Tetralogy of Fallot is unknown at present, there is no established method for preventing the condition from occurring. Women who have Tetralogy of Fallot or a family history of heart disease may wish to consult their doctor and discuss ways to reduce the risk of their baby contracting Tetralogy of Fallot. This may include eliminating alcohol and drug use, adopting a healthier diet, and employing relaxation techniques.

Secondary prevention includes receiving vaccines intended to prevent respiratory syncytial virus, especially during cold and flu season. In cases where the mother has Tetralogy of Fallot, or has given birth to a previous child with the condition, a fetal echocardiogram may be recommended. As the direct causes of the condition are unknown, further research is needed to determine the best course of action. As Tetralogy of Fallot is largely linked to genetics, prevention may ultimately lie with gene therapy.