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|
7272 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75231
|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.|
|Atrial Septal Defect Atrial septal defect (ASD) - also known as a "hole in the heart" - is a type of congenital heart disease. Fortunately, most ASDs are diagnosed and treated successfully.|
|Ventricular Septal Defect Ventricular septal defect (VSD) - also known as a "hole in the heart" - is a congenital heart defect. Fortunately, most VSDs are diagnosed and treated successfully.|
|When Your Baby Has a Birth Defect If your child has a birth defect, you don't have to go it alone - lots of people and resources are available to help you.|
|Heart Murmurs and Your Child A heart murmur diagnosis is extremely common. Most murmurs are not a cause for concern and do not affect a child's health.|
|If Your Child Has a Heart Defect Congenital heart defects are relatively common, affecting almost 1 in every 100 newborns in the United States.|
|Coarctation of the Aorta Coarctation of the aorta is a treatable congenital defect in which a child's aorta is narrowed at some point.|
|Birth Defects Birth defects are relatively common. Some are minor and cause no problems; others cause major disabilities. Learn about the different types of birth defects, and how to help prevent them.|
|Ventricular Septal Defect Ventricular septal defect, or VSD, is a heart condition that a few teens can have. Find out what it is, how it happens, and what doctors do to correct it.|
|The Heart Your heart beats and sends oxygen throughout your entire body. Find out how it works and how heart problems can be fixed.|
|Atrial Septal Defect Atrial septal defect, or ASD, is a heart condition that teens can have. In most cases, ASDs are diagnosed and treated successfully with few or no complications.|
|Atrial Septal Defect An atrial septal defect is an opening in the wall between two parts of the heart that lets oxygen-rich blood from one side mix with oxygen-poor blood on the other side. Read more about ASDs in this article for kids.|
|Words to Know (Heart Glossary) Your heart beats and sends blood all around your body. Find out more about the heart, from A to Z, in this glossary.|
|Heart and Circulatory System The heart and circulatory system (also called the cardiovascular system) make up the network that delivers blood to the body's tissues.|
|Your Heart & Circulatory System Your heart is a hard-working muscle. Find out more in this article for kids.|
|EEG (Electroencephalogram) Is your child scheduled to have an EEG? Find out how this test is performed and when you can expect the results.|
|Congenital Heart Defects Congenital heart defects involve abnormal or incomplete development of the heart. Learn about the different types of congenital heart defects.|
|Heart and Circulatory System The heart and circulatory system are our body's lifeline, delivering blood to the body's tissues. Brush up on your ticker with this body basics article.|
|Arrhythmias Arrhythmias are abnormal heart rhythms usually caused by an electrical "short circuit" in the heart. Many don't require treatment; however, some need to be evaluated and treated by a doctor.|
|When Your Baby Is Born With a Health Problem If you're expecting a baby, it's important to understand that certain health problems and complications can't be prevented, no matter how smoothly the pregnancy goes.|
|ECG (Electrocardiogram) Is your child scheduled to have an ECG? Find out how this test is performed and when you can expect the results.|
|Coarctation of the Aorta When someone has coarctation of the aorta, that person's aorta (the major blood vessel that carries blood away from the heart to the body) is narrowed at some point.|
What to expect when coming to Akron Children's
For healthcare providers and nurses
Residency & Fellowships, Medical Students, Nursing and Allied Health
For prospective employees and career-seekers
Our online community that provides inspirational stories and helpful information.