Truncus Arteriosus

Truncus arteriosus is a complex malformation where only one artery comes from the heart and forms the aorta (the main artery to the body) and pulmonary artery (the main artery between the heart and lungs). Because there is only one artery, blue (oxygen-poor) blood and red (oxygen-rich) blood mix. Some of this mixed blood goes to the lungs, some to the coronary arteries (arteries that allow blood to flow to the heart muscle) and some out to the body. With truncus arteriosus, typically too much of this blood goes to the lungs. As a result of too much blood going to the lungs, the lungs can fill with fluid and make breathing difficult. This also can cause stress on the blood vessels that lead to the lungs, which may ultimately damage the vessels. It can also lead to pulmonary hypertension (increased blood pressure in the blood vessels, arteries and capillaries of the lungs).

Tests used to diagnose this condition may include an EKG, echocardiogram, heart catheterization, MRI or chest X-ray.

Surgery for this condition usually is required early in life. It includes closing a large ventricular septal defect within the heart, detaching the pulmonary arteries from the large common artery, and connecting the pulmonary arteries to the right ventricle with a tube graft. Children with truncus arteriosus need lifelong follow-up care to see how well the heart is working.

People with truncus arteriosus, before and after treatment, are at risk for getting an infection on the heart's walls or valves (endocarditis). To help prevent this, they'll need to take antibiotics before certain dental and surgical procedures.

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