The congenital heart defect (present at birth) known as truncus arteriousus is a result of there being only one large blood vessel leading out of the heart as opposed to the normal two vessels. Additionally, the two lower chambers of the heart are not separated (ventricular septal defect), which allows oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to be mixed, resulting is severe circulatory problems and a lack of adequate oxygen provided to the body.
Surgery is necessary to treat this condition and is generally done prior to two months of age. During the first few weeks of life, truncus arteriosus can be observed through a blue coloring of the skin, poor feeding and growth, shortness of breath, rapid breathing, or irregular heartbeats.
Although the exact cause of congenital heart defect is not known, there are many factors that may contribute to increased risk for developing truncus areteriosus. These include contraction of a viral illness during pregnancy, poorly controlled diabetes during pregnancy, taking certain medications, chromosomal disorders, and smoking during pregnancy.
More information can also be found by visiting the Heart Institute at Children's Hospital Colorado.
Photo courtesy of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
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