Each year, 4 out of every 10,000 babies born in the United States have the condition, which was named after the French doctor who first described it in the late 1800s, Étienne Fallot. About 10% of all babies born with a heart problem have tetralogy of Fallot (TOF).
The four defects that together make up tetralogy of Fallot are:
The combined effect of these defects is an inadequate supply of blood to the lungs, which causes blood low in oxygen to circulate to the rest of the body. This lower oxygen level causes cyanosis, which is a blue or purple tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails.
Children with tetralogy of Fallot:
A child whose TOF is not repaired might need to limit his or her participation in competitive sports and other physical activities. Many infants who have surgery to correct the defect do very well, participate in normal kid activities, and live to adulthood.
Science has not yet identified a specific cause for tetralogy of Fallot in all cases, but genetics is believed to play a role. Someone born with TOF seems more likely to have a child with it.
Mothers who contract rubella or other viral illnesses during their pregnancies are at a higher risk of giving birth to babies with TOF. Other risk factors and conditions include poor nutrition, alcohol abuse, diabetes, and mother's age (over 40).
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the presence of certain environmental factors, such as carbon monoxide, might increase a mother's chances of delivering a baby with TOF. In addition, children who have certain genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome and DiGeorge syndrome, often have congenital heart defects, including tetralogy of Fallot.
One of the most common signs of tetralogy of Fallot is cyanosis (a blue or purple tint to the baby's skin, lips, and fingernails). A child with TOF might experience sudden episodes of cyanosis, called "Tet spells," during crying or feeding.
Other signs include:
Your doctor may use several diagnostic tests to determine if your child has tetralogy of Fallot, including:
Tetralogy of Fallot is repaired through open-heart surgery soon after birth or later in infancy, depending on the baby's health and weight and severity of defects and symptoms.
The two surgical options are:
Most babies born with tetralogy of Fallot do very well and survive to adulthood, but require yearly follow-up with a heart specialist.
Reviewed by: Gina Baffa, MD
Date reviewed: February 2012
|National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) The NHLBI provides the public with educational resources relating to the treatment of heart, blood vessel, lung, and blood diseases as well as sleep disorders.|
|Congenital Heart Information Network The Congenital Heart Information Network's goal is to provide information and resources to families of children with congenital and acquired heart disease, adults with congenital heart defects, and the professionals who work with them.|
|Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) The CDC (the national public health institute of the United States) promotes health and quality of life by preventing and controlling disease, injury, and disability.|
|American Heart Association This group is dedicated to providing education and information on fighting heart disease and stroke. Contact the American Heart Association at: American Heart Association|
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|American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) The AAP is committed to the health and well-being of infants, adolescents, and young adults. The website offers news articles and tips on health for families.|
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