Treatments for truncus arteriosis in children

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Contact the Congenital Heart Valve Program

Having identified your child's heart condition, our team at Boston Children's Hospital can begin treating her.

Treatment options

Your newborn will be admitted to our cardiac intensive care unit (CICU). Initially, she may be placed on oxygen or a ventilator to help her breathe, and IV (intravenous) medications may be given to help her heart and lungs function more efficiently.

Truncus arteriosus must be treated through surgery. While your baby is waiting for surgery, we treat her with diuretics to reduce fluid in the lungs, as well as high-calorie feedings to strengthen her.

Surgical repair

Sugery is usually performed under general anesthesia when the infant is a few days to weeks old, but before the blood vessels in the lungs are overwhelmed by extra blood flow and become diseased.

  • In the procedure, the pulmonary arteries are detached from the common artery (truncus arteriosus).
  • The pulmonary arteries are connected to the right ventricle using a homograft (a section of pulmonary artery with its valves intact from a tissue donor).
  • Occasionally, an artificial conduit (a small tube containing a valve) is used instead of a homograft (human tissue valve).
  • The ventricular septal defect (VSD) is closed with a patch.
  • During the operation, a heart-lung machine does the work of the baby's heart and lungs. The machine protects the heart muscle, brain and other organs during the operation.

At home: caring for your child after surgery

After surgery, your child's cardiologist will offer recommendations for follow-up care, including:

  • wound care while the baby is healing from the surgery
  • a nutritional program to encourage weight gain
  • an oral hygiene program to prevent infection
  • an appropriate exercise regimen

As your baby recovers and grows, be sure to follow a regular program of well-baby/well-child checkups.

As she grows: your child's long-term outlook

Surgical techniques for truncus arteriosus and its associated defects are continually being refined, and the long-term outlook for children who have this surgery is continually improving. Most children who've had surgery recover and grow normally. Even so, your child will need periodic monitoring, since she will be at risk for arrhythmias, leaky valves, narrowing or deterioration of the repair sites and other heart issues. She may need additional procedures as she grows, since she will eventually outgrow the homograft or conduit repair.

Your child's cardiologist will help you create a long-term care program as your baby matures into childhood, the teen years and even adulthood. Most people who have had congenital heart disease repair will have an ongoing relationship with their cardiologist. We'll treat any complications (often detected through cardiac MRI) and will advise on daily-life issues, such as activity levels, nutrition and precautions related to pregnancy.

Coping and support

We understand that if your child is has truncus arteriosus, you'll have a lot of questions. Will surgery help my child? What's the long-term outlook? Boston Children's Hospital has a variety of resources at that may be helpful to your family:

  • Patient education: Our nurses will be on hand to walk you through your child's treatment and help answer any questions you may have.
  • Parent-to-parent: Want to talk with someone whose child has been treated for truncus arteriosus? We can often put you in touch with other families who've been down a similar road and can share their experiences. To request family-to-family support, talk with your child's health care team or contact The Center for Families.
  • Faith-based support: If you and your family are in need of spiritual support, we can connect you with the Boston Children's chaplaincy. Our program includes nearly a dozen clergy representing Protestant, Jewish, Muslim, Roman Catholic and other faith traditions who will listen to you, pray with you and help you observe your own faith practices during your treatment experience.
  • Social work and mental health professionals: Children's social workers and mental health clinicians have helped many other families in your situation. We can offer counseling and assistance with a wide variety of issues, such as coping with your child's diagnosis, stresses relating to coping with illness and dealing with financial difficulties.

As your child reaches adulthood, you'll want her to know about our Boston Adult Congenital Heart and Pulmonary Hypertension Service (BACH). Boston Children's is a founding institution of BACH, an international center for excellence providing long-term inpatient and outpatient care and advanced therapeutic options as needed for congenital heart disease patients as they reach and progress through adulthood.

Keep family and friends up to date during your child's treatment

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The Cardiovascular Program at Boston Children's is one of the largest pediatric heart programs in the United States. Our staff of more than 80 pediatric cardiac specialists cares for thousands of children and adults with congenital and acquired heart defects each year, from simple to complex cases. We have experience treating rare heart problems—with results that are among the best in the world.. 

Boston Children's Development of Interventional Catheterization

You’ll be comforted to know that Boston Children’s pioneered the use of interventional catheterization for many congenital heart defects, and we are a leader in the use of this procedure.

We are grateful to have been ranked #1 on U.S. News & World Report's list of the best children's hospitals in the nation for the third year in a row, an honor we could not have achieved without the patients and families who inspire us to do our very best for them. Thanks to you, Boston Children's is a place where we can write the greatest children's stories ever told.”
- Sandra L. Fenwick, President and CEO

Boston Children's Hospital
300 Longwood Avenue, Boston, MA 02115
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