Treatment of Ebstein's anomaly depends on the severity of the defect and your signs and symptoms. The goal of treatment is to reduce your symptoms and avoid future complications, such as heart failure and arrhythmias. Treatments may include:
If you have no signs or symptoms or abnormal heart rhythms, your doctor may recommend only careful monitoring of your heart condition with regular checkups.
Follow-up appointments generally include a physical examination and tests. Tests may include an electrocardiogram, echocardiogram, a Holter monitor test and an exercise stress test.
If you have heart rhythm disturbances, medications may help control your heart rate and maintain normal heart rhythm.
Your doctor may also prescribe medications for signs and symptoms of heart failure, if needed, such as drugs to prevent water retention (diuretics) and other medications. You also may be given medications to prevent blood clots if you have certain heart rhythm problems or a hole (atrial septal defect) between the upper heart chambers.
Some babies may be given a medication to keep a connection (ductus arteriosus) open between two major blood vessels leading from the heart — the aorta and pulmonary artery. This can help increase blood flow to the lungs. Some babies also may be given an inhaled substance called nitric oxide to help improve blood flow to the lungs.
Your doctor may recommend surgery when your symptoms are affecting your quality of life. Surgery may also be recommended if you have mild symptoms but your heart is beginning to enlarge and your overall heart function is beginning to decrease. Because Ebstein's anomaly is rare, choose a surgeon who's familiar with the defect and who has training and experience performing procedures to correct it.
Several different types of procedures can be used to surgically treat Ebstein's anomaly and associated defects, including:
Tricuspid valve repair. In this procedure, surgeons reduce the size of the valve opening and allow the existing valve leaflets to come together to work properly. A band may be placed around the valve to stabilize the repair. This procedure is usually done when there's enough valve tissue to allow for repair.
Some surgeons perform a newer form of tricuspid valve repair called cone reconstruction. In cone reconstruction, surgeons separate the leaflets of the tricuspid valve from the heart muscle. The leaflets are then rotated and reattached, creating a "leaflet cone."
In some cases, your valve may need to be repaired again or your valve may need to be replaced in the future.
- Tricuspid valve replacement. If the existing valve can't be repaired, your surgeon may replace the valve by removing the deformed valve and inserting either a biological tissue (bioprosthetic) or mechanical valve. Mechanical valves generally aren't used often in tricuspid valve replacement. If a mechanical valve is used, you'll need to take a blood-thinning medication for the rest of your life.
- Closure of the atrial septal defect. If a hole is present between the two upper chambers of the heart (atrial septal defect), your surgeon can close the hole during surgery to repair or replace the defective valve. Your surgeon can also repair other associated heart defects that may be present during surgery to repair or replace the tricuspid valve.
Maze procedure. If you have fast heart rhythms, your surgeon may perform the maze procedure to correct the fast heart rhythms during surgery to repair or replace the tricuspid valve.
In this procedure, your surgeon makes small incisions in the upper chambers of your heart to create a pattern or maze of scar tissue. Because scar tissue doesn't conduct electricity, it interferes with stray electrical impulses that cause some types of fast heart rhythms. Extreme cold (cryotherapy) or radiofrequency energy may also be used to create the scars.
Radiofrequency catheter ablation
If you have fast or abnormal heart rhythms, your doctor may perform radiofrequency catheter ablation. In this procedure, your doctor threads one or more catheters through your blood vessels to your heart. Electrodes at the catheter tips can use radiofrequency energy to damage (ablate) a small spot of heart tissue and create an electrical block along the pathway that's causing your arrhythmia. In some cases, repeat procedures may be necessary.
If you have severe Ebstein's anomaly and poor heart function, a heart transplant may be necessary.