Tricuspid Atresia

What is Tricuspid Atresia?

Tricuspid atresia is a type of congenital heart defect in which the tricuspid valve that should be between the right atrium and ventricle did not form. Instead, there is a solid wall of tissue between the two chambers.

When this occurs, the blood is unable to flow through the heart and to the lungs to receive oxygen as it normally would do. As a result, the baby’s lungs are unable to supply the rest of her body with the oxygen it requires to function properly.

In most cases, it is not known what causes tricuspid atresia. However, it is known that the deformity occurs while the baby’s heart develops during fetal growth.

Additionally, other congenital defects may be present, such as a narrowed pulmonary valve or a hole between the ventricles of the heart. Several factors are thought to increase a child’s risk of developing these conditions.

Some of these include mother who drinks, smokes, or has lupus, uncontrolled diabetes, or German measles during the pregnancy, a family history of congenital heart defects, and the presence of Down syndrome.

What are the Symptoms of Tricuspid Atresia?

Symptoms of tricuspid atresia are easily seen soon after a baby is born.

Indications of the defect include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Bluish skin and lips
  • Slow growth
  • Poor weight gain
  • Tiring easily, particularly when feeding

Babies may also show signs of heart failure such as: shortness of breath, weakness, fatigue, sudden weight gain due to fluid retention, and swelling of the abdomen, ankles, feet, and legs. Later in life, patients with tricuspid atresia may encounter other complications including blood clots, arrhythmias, becoming easily tired, and complications of the lymphatic system.

Tricuspid Atresia Causes

Tricuspid atresia is a condition caused by the abnormal development of the heart during pregnancy, which prevents the heart from properly sending blood to the lungs. The tricuspid valve is malformed or missing from the portion of the heart between the right atrium and right ventricle. Because this limits blood flow into the right ventricle, that portion of the heart doesn’t develop fully.

Often, the heart also creates another defect, a hole in the septal wall that allows blood to flow from the right atrium to the left atrium. This allows the left side of the heart to do the work, pumping blood to the rest of the body. In infants who have not developed the hole in the septum, it may be necessary to create a hole via a surgical procedure.

While there is no known direct cause of tricuspid atresia, there may be genetic factors that increase the risk of developing this abnormality.

How is Tricuspid Atresia Treated?

While there is currently no way to replace a defective tricuspid valve, surgery can be done to correct the blood flow so that it goes through the heart to the lungs.

This usually requires multiple procedures and might include atrial septostomy, shunting, and pulmonary artery band replacement, among others.

Tricuspid Atresia Prevention

Because tricuspid atresia, like many heart defects, are genetic and unforeseeable, there isn’t much one can do to prevent it from developing in a child. Consulting a cardiologist with experience in treating congenital heart defects, as well as speaking with a genetic counselor, may help plan for such complications, prior to deciding to have a child.

There are some ways to reduce the risk of tricuspid atresia in a developing infant. For instance, adding 400 micrograms of folic acid to one’s daily vitamin intake may help and this is already found in most prenatal vitamins. Folic acid has been linked to the prevention of brain and spinal cord defects and many researchers believe it can also prevent heart defects.

Additionally, refrain from smoking and alcohol use during pregnancy. Consult your doctor about any medications you may be taking, during your pregnancy, including vitamins, herbal products, and over the counter drugs. Doctors also recommend avoiding chemicals, such as cleaning products and paint.

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