Atrioventricular Canal Defect in Children | Testing and Diagnosis

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Contact the Complex Biventricular Repair Program

The first step in treating a child is forming an accurate, complete and timely diagnosis. If your newborn is exhibiting signs and symptoms that suggest a congenital heart defect, your pediatrician will refer you to a pediatric cardiologist, who will perform a physical examination. Your cardiologist will listen to your baby’s heart and lungs, measure the oxygen level in his or her blood (non-invasively) and make other observations to determine the diagnosis.

Your cardiologist will also investigate whether your baby has a heart murmur — a noise heard through the stethoscope that’s caused by turbulence of blood flow. The location in the chest where the murmur is best heard, as well as the sound and character of the murmur itself, will give the cardiologist an initial idea of what kind of heart problem your baby may have.

What tests will my child need?

Some of the following medical tests will be used to diagnose AV canal and its associated defects:

  • Electrocardiogram (EKG): An EKG is usually the initial test for evaluating the causes of symptoms and detecting heart abnormalities, including AV canal.
  • Chest x-ray: A conventional chest x-ray will evaluate the size and spatial relationships of the heart within the child’s chest.
  • Echocardiogram: An echocardiogram evaluates the structure and function of your child’s heart, using electronically recorded sound waves that produce a moving picture of the heart and heart valves.
  • Cardiac magnetic resonance imaging (cardiac MRI): An MRI is a non-invasive test using 3-D imaging technology produced by magnets to accurately determine the size of the heart chambers, arteries and veins in the chest, as well as the blood flow and functioning of your child’s heart. 
  • Cardiac catheterization: This test, performed under sedation, provides detailed visual information and measurements about the structures inside the heart. Blood pressure and oxygen measurements are taken in the four chambers of the heart, as well as the pulmonary artery and aorta.
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