Tetralogy of Fallot is a rare congenital condition, which is detected at birth. It is caused by the incorrect formation of a baby’s heart in the mother’s womb during pregnancy. The disease is considered to be critical as it usually requires surgery after the child is born. It leads to serious damages to the organism, including the decrease of oxygen in the blood, and may also cause severe consequences, such as delayed growth and development, and higher risks of seizures, arrhythmia, and other heart conditions. However, modern medicine has methods for helping children with this abnormality, which allows them to survive and lead normal lives.
Tetralogy of Fallot is a serious heart condition, which is diagnosed during pregnancy or after the baby is born. It is characterized by a combination of four heart defects, which include a ventricular septal defect (VSD), pulmonary valve stenosis, a misplaced aorta, and a thickened right ventricular wall (right ventricular hypertrophy) (Mayo Clinic, n. d.). According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), each year, there are approximately 1,660 babies or, in other words, about 1 in every 2518 children in the United States born with this disease (2020). The exact causes of the condition’s development are not known, although, it is proven that in many cases the reason is the defect of genes or chromosomes. Experts also suggest that it may happen due other risk factors, including environmental influence a mother and a fetus encounter during pregnancy, the medicines the woman uses, alcohol abuse, poor nutrition, viral diseases, and others.
Tetralogy of Fallot may be diagnosed before birth with the help of prenatal screening tests as an ultrasound is capable of detecting this abnormality. In case a doctor suspects this disease, they may perform a fetal echocardiogram to confirm the diagnosis. After the baby is born, the condition becomes more visible and its signs may include bluish-looking skin or a “heart murmur”, a “whooshing” sound “caused by blood not flowing properly through the heart” (CDC, 2020, para. 12). Among other symptoms are shortness of breath and rapid breathing, fainting, clubbing of fingers and toes, slow weight gain, and prolonged crying. Infants of 2 to 4 months old can also show episodes of “tet spells”, which are characterized by instinctive squatting when being out of breath, caused by a rapid decrease of the amount of oxygen in the blood (Mayo Clinic, n. d.). The diagnosis can be confirmed after the echocardiogram or with the help of pulse oximetry, which is aimed at estimating the level of oxygen in the baby’s blood.
Modern science allows treating tetralogy of Fallot by surgery after the child is born. Doctors “widen or replace the pulmonary valve and enlarge the passage to the pulmonary artery” and “place a patch over the ventricular septal defect to close the hole between the two lower chambers of the heart” (CDC, 2020, para. 14). These procedures help to improve blood flow to the lungs and other organs. After surgery, most children are capable of having normal healthy lives. However, they require regular check-ups with a cardiologist to ensure that other concomitant health conditions would not develop in time. In the future, people with this diagnosis may also have restrictions on physical exercise.
In conclusion, tetralogy of Fallot is a rare condition, characterized by four different heart defects. It is diagnosed during pregnancy or soon after the baby is born. The exact reasons for the development of this abnormality are not known, although, experts assume that they may include the flaws of genes combined with environmental influence, poor nutrition, alcohol or medications abuse of the mother during pregnancy. After the diagnosis is confirmed after the baby is born, it requires immediate surgery to improve the flow of blood in the body. After the procedure, children usually lead normal lives with regular consultations with their cardiologists.
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. (2020). Facts about tetralogy of Fallot. Web.
Mayo Clinic. (n. d.). Tetralogy of Fallot. Web.