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Tetralogy of Fallot

Tetralogy of Fallot

The most common congenital heart defect, tetralogy of Fallot (TOF) impacts one in every 2,000 children born. It is characterized by four defects, including the formation of a hole between the two ventricles of the heart, the tightening of the exit from the right ventricle, a general increase in size of the right ventricle, and a physical deformity that allows blood from both ventricles to enter the aorta. When a child is born with TOF, the most common symptoms are a blue coloring to the skin, a heart murmur, or increased tiredness when they are breastfeeding. Additionally, when a child with TOF has a bowel movement, they may experience sudden symptoms that include the development of a bluish tint to the skin and lightheadedness or dizziness. A child is more likely to be born with TOF if their mother is over the age of 40 or develops rubella while the child is in gestation.

To treat TOF, a child generally has open heart surgery within their first year. This is done to fix the hole that has formed between the ventricles, as well as to expand the pulmonary valve and pulmonary arteries. Often, when a child is too small for the surgery to be performed safely, a temporary fix is done surgically until the child has matured. While this repair allows a person to live a normal life, complications as an adult can include pulmonary regurgitation, which is when the pulmonary valve allows blood to flow back into the right ventricle as the heart beats, or an irregular heartbeat.

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