Truncus Arteriosus | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is truncus arteriosus diagnosed?

Truncus arteriosus is usually diagnosed before birth or soon after a baby’s birth. In some cases, truncus arteriosus is diagnosed during pregnancy with an echocardiogram of the of the baby’s heart.

If your newborn baby is born with a bluish tint to the skin, or if your young child has symptoms of a heart problem, your pediatrician will refer you to a pediatric cardiologist for an exam and testing.

Your child’s doctor may order one or more of the following tests to confirm a diagnosis of truncus arteriosus, and to provide detailed information on the shape and condition of your baby’s heart:

What are the treatment options for truncus arteriosus?

Truncus arteriosus must be treated through surgery. While your baby is waiting for surgery, he or she may need to take medications to reduce fluid in the lungs and have high-calorie feedings to build strength.

Most babies with truncus arteriosus need surgery in the first few days or weeks of life. During the surgery, the surgeon will:

  • detach the pulmonary arteries from the common artery (truncus arteriosus)
  • connect the pulmonary arteries to the right ventricle using a homograft (a section of pulmonary artery and its valves from a tissue donor) or an artificial conduit (a small tube containing a valve)
  • close the ventricular septal defect (VSD) 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.

What is the long-term outlook for children with truncus arteriosus?

Most children who've had surgery for truncus arteriosus recover and grow normally. However, your child will need regular check-ups with a cardiologist, since this condition puts them at risk for arrhythmias, leaky valves, and narrowing of the lung arteries. Your child may also need additional procedures as he or she grows, since children 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 adulthood, where we continue care in the Adult Congenital Heart Program. Most people who have had congenital heart disease repair will have an ongoing relationship with their cardiologist.