Treating an atrioventricular canal defect helps your child avoid potential complications, such as:

  • Enlargement of the heart. Increased blood flow through the heart forces it to work harder than normal, causing it to enlarge.
  • Heart failure. Untreated, atrioventricular canal defect will usually result in heart failure — a condition in which the heart is unable to pump enough blood to meet the body's needs.
  • High blood pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). When the heart's left ventricle weakens and can't pump out enough blood, the increase in pressure backs up through the pulmonary veins to the arteries in the lungs, causing high blood pressure in the lungs.
  • Pneumonia. If your baby has an untreated atrioventricular canal defect, he or she may have recurrent bouts of pneumonia — a serious lung infection.

Complications later in life

Although treatment greatly improves the outlook for children with atrioventricular canal defect, some who have corrective surgery may still be at risk of the following associated conditions later in life:

  • Leaky heart valves (regurgitation)
  • Narrowing of the heart valves (stenosis)
  • Heart rhythm abnormalities (arrhythmias)
  • Breathing difficulties associated with damage to the lungs (pulmonary vascular disease)

Common signs and symptoms of these complications include shortness of breath, fatigue and a rapid, fluttering heartbeat, among others. In some cases, such as a leaky heart valve, a second surgery may be needed.

Sept. 12, 2012