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Tetralogy of Fallot
Signs and Symptoms

The four defects characteristic of this condition include:

  • An abnormal opening in the wall separating the ventricles called a ventricular septal defect (VSD) that allows blood to go directly from the right to left ventricle without going through the lungs.
  • A narrowing of pulmonary valve or below the valve called pulmonary stenosis that partially blocks blood flow to the lungs.
  • An overly muscular right ventricle, also called right ventricular hypertrophy.
  • A displaced aorta, also called overriding aorta or Ao, directly over the abnormal opening between the ventricles.

Babies with tetralogy are blue at birth or soon after, and have detectable heart murmurs, an extra sound in the heartbeat. Activity such as crying may exacerbate the condition and babies may have shortness of breath or may faint. Babies also may experience a "tetralogy spell" in which oxygen levels drop suddenly leading to irritability and then sleepiness or unresponsiveness.

Most adults with tetralogy of Fallot have had surgery during childhood. The adult with unrepaired tetralogy usually has milder cyanosis and a heart murmur or extra heart sound.

Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Medical Center.

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