Tricuspid atresia is a condition among newborns where they are born without a tricuspid valve. This valve has a vital role in the functioning of the heart which is to propel blood between the lungs and the rest of the body.
In some newborns, the tricuspid valve is absent or not properly developed. It is important to note that tricuspid atresia is an uncommon heart condition that is present at birth that can be serious and even life-threatening.
The indications of tricuspid atresia are based on the specific heart defect present.
Those who are born with tricuspid atresia generally show indications of distress during the initial few hours of life. Nevertheless, some infants might be healthy at birth and only show symptoms in the initial 2 months of life.
The usual symptoms linked with tricuspid atresia include:
- Shortness of breath or dyspnea
- Rapid breathing
- Slow growth
- Fatigue that occurs while feeding
- Bluish skin discoloration or cyanosis
If an infant is diagnosed with tricuspid atresia, he/she is treated in a neonatal intensive care unit. The infant is given specialized care to manage the condition.
In case the infant could not breathe, a ventilator will be used. Medications to maintain the heart function might also be given.
Once the condition stabilizes, surgery is done to correct the heart defect. Among infants with tricuspid atresia, it might require 3 surgeries since the heart and body of the child grows and changes such as:
- Shunt placement – this is the first heart surgery that is done during the initial few days of life. This involves the placement of a shunt in the heart to prevent the blood from flowing to the lungs.
- Hemi-Fontan procedure – the second surgery is done when the child is between 3-5 months old.
- Fontan procedure – this is done once the infant is between 18 months – 5 years old.
If an infant has tricuspid atresia, continued care for years is required after successful treatment. In some cases, open-heart surgery might be required but it has possible complications including heart failure.
After the surgical procedures are done, the baby requires ongoing care and monitoring up to adulthood.