Tests and diagnosis

By Mayo Clinic Staff

It's possible your doctor may diagnose your baby's atrioventricular canal defect while you're pregnant.

If your baby has a partial atrioventricular canal defect, his or her doctor may not detect that anything's wrong right away. However, if your baby has a complete atrioventricular canal defect, signs and symptoms usually become noticeable within the first few weeks of life.

Tests that help diagnose an atrioventricular canal defect include:

  • Physical exam. Your baby's doctor may suspect a heart defect such as atrioventricular canal defect if your baby is having trouble breathing or having difficulty feeding and gaining weight. Your doctor may also suspect a heart defect if he or she hears a heart murmur — an abnormal whooshing sound caused by turbulent blood flow.
  • Echocardiogram. Doctors typically use an echocardiogram to diagnose atrioventricular canal defect. This test uses high-pitched sound waves that bounce off the heart to produce moving images that the doctor can view on a video screen. In a baby with atrioventricular canal defect, the echocardiogram reveals a hole in the wall between the heart chambers and abnormal valves. Because this test can track blood flow, it also shows blood moving through the hole from the left side to the right side of the heart, allowing oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix.
  • Cardiac catheterization. In some cases, doctors may use cardiac catheterization to diagnose atrioventricular canal defect. During this procedure, the doctor inserts a thin flexible tube (catheter) into an artery or vein in the groin and advances it up to the heart. A dye is injected through the catheter to make the heart structures visible on X-ray pictures. The catheter also allows the doctor to measure pressure in the chambers of the heart and in the blood vessels.
Sept. 12, 2012