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Atrioventricular Canal Defect -- Child

Definition

An atrioventricular (AV) canal defect is a rare heart defect. There is a large hole in the center of the heart that connects all 4 chambers.

The heart is made up of 2 upper chambers and 2 lower chambers. Usually, blood flows from the upper to lower chamber on the right side of the heart to the lungs. The blood picks up oxygen in the lungs and passes back into the upper chamber of the left side of the heart. It then passes to the lower chamber of the heart and out to the body.

The AV canal defect causes blood in the different chambers to mix. This means that some of the blood that is sent out to the body has not passed the lungs to pick up oxygen. The body does not get enough oxygen.

Heart Chambers and Valves
heart anatomy
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.
Blood Flow Through the Heart
IMAGE
Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

AV canal defect is a congenital defect. This means that the baby is born with it. It is not known exactly why some babies’ hearts develop abnormally.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk of congenital heart defects include:

  • Family history of congenital heart defect
  • Certain chromosomal disorders such as Down syndrome
  • Previous pregnancy with fetal heart abnormalities or miscarriage
  • Conditions during pregnancy, such as:
    • Being infected with a virus
    • Having poorly controlled diabetes
    • Drinking alcohol
    • Taking certain medications

Symptoms

Symptoms may include:

  • Fast breathing
  • Poor feeding
  • Slow growth
  • Bluish skin color
  • Fatigue
  • Irritability
  • Lowered alertness
  • Wheezing
  • Swelling of the legs, ankles, and feet
  • Sweating
  • Fast heart beat
  • Sudden weight gain from retained fluid

This condition can lead to heart failure . If your child has any of these symptoms, get emergency medical care right away.

Diagnosis

You will be asked about your child’s symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.

Images may be taken of your child's heart. This can be done with:

Treatment

Talk with the doctor about the best treatment plan for your child. Treatment options include:

Surgery

Surgery is usually recommended to correct the defect. The goal of surgery is to close the hole with a patch.

Lifelong Monitoring

After surgery, your child will need to have regular visits with a heart doctor. The doctor may recommend that your child:

  • Make lifestyle changes, including limiting certain activities.
  • Take medications to treat symptoms after surgery.
  • Take antibiotics before medical or dental procedures to prevent infections.

Prevention

Since the cause is not clear, AV canal defects usually cannot be prevented. Prenatal care can decrease the risk of some congenital defects.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 12/2015 -
  • Update Date: 12/20/2014 -
  • American Heart Association

    http://www.heart.org

  • Family Doctor—American Family Physician

    http://familydoctor.org

  • Canadian Cardiovascular Society

    http://www.ccs.ca

  • Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada

    http://www.heartandstroke.com

  • Atrioventricular canal defect. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/AboutCongenitalHeartDefects/Complete-Atrioventricular-Canal-defect-CAVC%5FUCM%5F307023%5FArticle.jsp. Updated November 19, 2015. Accessed December 21, 2015.

  • Atrioventricular canal defect. Boston Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site521/mainpageS521P0.html. Updated 2010. Accessed December 21, 2015.

  • Congenital ventricular septal defect (VSD) in children and adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116076/Congenital-ventricular-septal-defect-VSD-in-children-and-adults. Updated January 25, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.

The health information in this Health Library is provided by a third party. TriStar Health does not in any way create the content of this information. It is provided solely for informational purposes. It does not constitute medical advice and is not intended to be a substitute for proper medical care provided by a physician. Always consult with your doctor for appropriate examinations, treatment, testing, and care recommendations. Do not rely on information on this site as a tool for self-diagnosis. If you have a medical emergency, call 911.