Heart and Blood Conditions

Tetralogy of Fallot

What is Tetralogy of Fallot?

Tetralogy of Fallot (pronounced teh-TRAHL-ah-jee of fah-LOH) is a group of four birth defects in the structure of the heart. (Tetra means four in Greek.)

The first is a large hole in the septum, or wall, between the right and left  ventricles . This hole is called a ventricular septal defect . It allows oxygen-poor blood and oxygen-rich blood to mix in the ventricles.

The second is stenosis, or narrowing, of pulmonary valve. This limits blood flow from the right ventricle to the lungs. It forces some oxygen-poor blood through the ventricular septal defect into the aorta, the artery that carries blood from the heart to the body.

The third problem is right ventricular hypertrophy. This is when the muscle wall in the right ventricle thickens. It happens because the right ventricle has to work harder to try to get blood through the pulmonary valve.

The fourth problem is called overriding aorta. Normally the aorta leaves the heart from the left ventricle. With overriding aorta, the aorta leaves the heart from a different spot, right over the ventricular septal defect.

This rare,  congenital  condition changes the normal flow of blood through the heart.

Together, the four defects limit flow of oxygen-poor blood from the heart to the lungs, where it should pick up oxygen. Instead oxygen-poor blood leaves the heart and goes out to the rest of the child's body.

Tetralogy of Fallot in Children

In recent years, the diagnosis and treatment of tetralogy of Fallot has improved greatly. As a result, most children with this heart defect grow to adulthood and lead active lives.

Tetralogy of Fallot occurs in about five in every 10,000 babies. Children with this problem may have other congenital defects, including genetic disorders such as Down syndrome and  DiGeorge syndrome .

Tetralogy of Fallot at Seattle Children's

Our heart team has treated many children with tetralogy of Fallot. We have extensive experience with the surgery these patients require. We also have a pediatric cardiac anesthesia team and a cardiac intensive care unit  ready to care for children who undergo heart surgery.

When you come to Children's, a team of people will take care of your child. Along with your child's cardiologist, you are connected with cardiac surgeons, cardiac anesthesiologists, cardiac intensive care specialists, neonatologists, pulmonologists (lung doctors), advanced nurse practitioners, nurses, child life specialists, social workers and others, if their expertise is needed. We work together to meet all of your child's health needs and help your family through this experience.

Since 1907, Children's has been treating children only. Our team members are trained in their fields and also in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age. Our expertise in pediatrics truly makes a difference for our patients and families.

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program shared by Children's and the University of Washington can help with care throughout your child's life.