Fallot’s Tetralogy or Fallot’s Syndrome is a congenital (meaning present at birth) cardiac disorder in which four heart defects occur simultaneously. This condition occurs in about 10% of the instances of congenital heart disease and affects males and females almost equally. This article provides a general overview of this condition, including diagnosis and treatment.
Fallot’s Tetralogy is named for the Danish physician who first described the condition in 1671. The four heart defects that are present in someone with Fallot’s Tetralogy are: 1. A ventricular septal defect (a hole in the wall between the heart’s two vetricles), 2. Pulmonary stenosis (which causes the enlargement of the right ventricle of the heart), 3. Dextroposition of the aorta and 4. Hypertrophy of the right ventricle. In the case of these latter, deoxygenated, as well as oxygenated blood passes into the aorta, causing a shortage of oxygen. This causes cyanosis which is a lack of oxygen in the blood.
Babies who are affected with this congenital syndrome are not normally diagnosed at birth, but symptoms become increasingly noticeable in the weeks and months following birth. As these babies grow older and are toddling and moving about, they may squat on their heels which is a way of relieving the symptoms of the disease. Other symptoms may include difficulty in feeding, low weight or failure to thrive, retarded growth and retarded physical development, getting exhausted upon physical exertion and clubbing of the fingers and toes. A heart murmur may actually be heard during a routine examination before any symptoms present themselves.
Treatment for Fallot’s Tetralogy will involve surgery that is normally conducted during infancy or early childhood. It may require more than one surgical procedure to correct all of the conditions present in Fallot’s Tetralogy. Without treatment, the symptoms will increase over time and become gradually more severe. Doctors may do a temporary procedure involving a shunt on very small infants, and then do the more permanent corrective surgery when the child is a little older.
The American Heart Association is a good online resource for finding out more about Fallot’s Tetralogy. There is a good general overview found on the page at http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=11071. In addition to current information about symptoms and treatment, this page has good color images showing exactly how the heart defects affect the heart of a person who has this condition. This page also includes information about prognosis from current treatment options and links to other related conditions and online resources.