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What is a coronary artery fistula?

A coronary artery fistula is an abnormal connection between one of the coronary arteries and another blood vessel or heart chamber. The coronary arteries supply blood to the heart. A coronary artery fistula can affect how well the blood flows to the heart and lead to dilation of the coronary artery.

Coronary artery fistula is a rare condition. In some cases, infants who are born with this condition may also have other heart defects.

How we care for coronary artery fistula

Here at the Boston Children’s Hospital Benderson Family Heart Center, our team treats a full spectrum of cardiac disorders, including coronary artery fistula and other rare and complex congenital heart defects.

Coronary Artery Fistula | Symptoms & Causes

What are the symptoms of coronary artery fistula?

Most children with coronary artery fistula don’t have any symptoms. If a child does have symptoms, they can include:

What are the causes of coronary artery fistula?

In most cases, coronary artery fistula is congenital, meaning a child is born with the condition. It occurs when one of the coronary arteries doesn’t form correctly during the baby’s development.

Some children can also develop a coronary artery fistula after birth. It may be caused by:

  • an infection
  • some types of heart surgery
  • an injury to the heart, either from surgery or an accident

Coronary Artery Fistula | Diagnosis & Treatments

How is coronary artery fistula diagnosed?

In many cases, this condition may not be diagnosed until later in life. It is most often diagnosed in children when a doctor hears a heart murmur that leads to further testing.

Tests to diagnose coronary artery fistula may include:

What are the treatment options for coronary artery fistula?

In most cases, a small fistula that's not causing symptoms won't need treatment. Some small fistulas eventually close on their own, but even if it doesn’t close, it may not cause symptoms and won’t need to be treated.

Children with a larger fistula may need surgery to close the connection with stiches or a patch. In some cases, the doctor may use a special wire coil to plug the opening instead of surgery. The coil is inserted into the heart using a long, thin tube called a catheter.

What is the long-term outlook for coronary artery fistula?

Most children with this condition do well and have a normal lifespan. Some children may need more than one surgery.

Coronary Artery Fistula | Programs & Services