Atrioventricular canal defect is a combination of heart problems resulting in a defect in the center of the heart. The condition occurs when there's a hole between the heart's chambers and problems with the valves that regulate blood flow in the heart.

Sometimes called endocardial cushion defect or atrioventricular septal defect, atrioventricular canal defect is present at birth (congenital).  The condition is often associated with Down syndrome.

Atrioventricular canal defect allows extra blood to flow to the lungs. The extra blood forces the heart to overwork, causing the heart muscle to enlarge.

Untreated, atrioventricular canal defect can cause heart failure and high blood pressure in the lungs. Doctors generally recommend surgery during the first year of life to close the hole in the heart and to reconstruct the valves.

Aug. 14, 2015