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If your infant or child has been diagnosed with atrioventricular canal defect (AV canal), an understanding of the condition will help you to cope with this unusual but treatable congenital (present at birth) heart defect.
A complete atrioventricular canal defect is actually a combination of several closely associated heart problems that result in a large defect in the center of the heart:
In a normal heart, oxygen-poor (blue) blood returns to the right atrium from the body, travels to the right ventricle, then is pumped through the pulmonary artery into the lungs, where it receives oxygen. And oxygen-rich (red) blood returns to the left atrium from the lungs, passes into the left ventricle, then is pumped through the aorta out to the body.
A cluster of defects
Like many congenital heart conditions, atrioventricular canal defect isn’t actually a single defect, but rather a group or cluster of closely associated defects in various combinations and with varying degrees of severity:
This cluster of defects can result in what is essentially a common AV valve that sits between the four heart chambers, with holes above and below the valve. This allows blood to pass between the chambers above and below the valve. Blood moves freely among the four heart chambers, mixing oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood, and typically results in more blood flow than normal to flow from the heart to the lungs. This extra blood flow to the lungs is often responsible for many of the symptoms seen in such children.
The experienced surgeons in Boston Children’s Cardiac Surgery Department understand how distressing a diagnosis of an atrioventricular canal defect can be for parents. You can have peace of mind knowing that our surgeons treat some of the most complex pediatric heart conditions in the world, with overall success rates approaching 98 percent—among the highest in the nation among large pediatric cardiac centers.
In particular, the methods used to repair AV canal have improved greatly in the past two decades, and the operation has a high likelihood of success.
At Boston Children’s, we provide families with a wealth of information, resources, programs and support—before, during and after your child’s treatment. With our compassionate, family-centered approach to expert treatment and care, you and your child are in the best possible hands.
Atrioventricular canal defect: Reviewed by David Brown, MD
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