Our commitment to keeping you safe

We have never taken for granted the sacred trust you place in us to care for your child, and today we are more grateful than ever for that privilege. To learn about all the ways we are working to keep you, your family and our team members safe, visit our COVID-19 updates page.

Pediatric Truncus Arteriosus

What is Pediatric Truncus Arteriosus?

Truncus arteriosus is a congenital (present at birth) defect that occurs when the blood vessels coming out of the heart fail to separate before a child is born. The result is a connection between two large arteries (the aorta and pulmonary artery) that shouldn't be there. When this happens, oxygen-poor and oxygen-rich blood mix back and forth. This reduces the amount of oxygen in the blood flowing through your child’s body. As a result:

  • Blood may not have as much oxygen as normal
  • There’s too much blood going to the lungs
  • The heart works harder

Children with truncus arteriosus also have a second heart defect known as ventricular septal defect, meaning there is a hole in the bottom two chambers of their heart.

What are the signs and symptoms of Pediatric Truncus Arteriosus?

Children born with truncus arteriosus appear normal at first, but as they adjust to life outside the womb (which includes maintaining their own blood flow) they will quickly become sick. Symptoms of truncus arteriosus can start showing in the first few hours or days of life and can include:

  • Skin that appears ashen or blue from poor circulation (cyanosis)
  • Lack of energy
  • Sweating
  • Pale skin
  • Cool skin
  • Rapid or heavy breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • A build up of fluid or mucus that makes it hard to breathe (congested breathing)
  • Difficulty feeding
  • Difficulty gaining weight
  • Weak pulse
  • Heart murmur

How is Pediatric Truncus Arteriosus diagnosed?

Prenatal diagnosis (before your child is born):

  • Prenatal screening ultrasounds can show early signs of abnormalities in your child’s heart
  • Specialized testing conducted by fetal heart experts can confirm your child’s diagnosis. Learn more about our fetal heart program.
  • If your child does have truncus arteriosus, we help you plan a safe delivery and make sure your child receives treatment immediately after birth

Postnatal diagnosis (after your child is born):

If your child’s condition wasn’t diagnosed before they were born, we provide quick and accurate diagnosis once they start experiencing symptoms with the help of a physical exam and testing.

Your child’s physical exam may include:

At Children’s Health, we perform diagnostic tests using special imaging equipment designed with our smallest patients in mind. Learn more about the full spectrum of tests available from our cardiac imaging department.

How is Pediatric Truncus Arteriosus treated?

At Children’s Health, our goal is to deliver compassionate care that’s tailored to meet your child’s needs. The most common treatment for truncus arteriosus involves surgery to repair your child’s heart defects. In some cases, we use other treatments first to help children get strong enough to tolerate surgery.

We offer a full range of treatments, including:

  • Medication management: One or more medications to help you child’s heart and lungs work better
  • Nutrition: Special supplements to help your child gain weight
  • Surgery:
    • Separating the connected arteries.
    • Creating new connection to the right sided pumping chamber (right ventricle)
    • Patching the ventricular septal defect

When you come to Children’s Health℠, you can be confident your child will receive the best care possible for truncus arteriosus. Physicians at Children’s Health are world-class subspecialists from UT Southwestern and provide expert care for children with this rare condition.

As one of the most active heart centers in the country, Children’s Health performs hundreds of heart surgeries every year. Learn more about our cardiovascular surgery and cardiac catheterization and intervention programs.

Pediatric Truncus Arteriosus Doctors and Providers

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What causes truncus arteriosus?

    The causes of heart defects such as truncus arteriosus among most babies are not known.

  • Why does my baby look blue?

    Children with truncus arteriosus may have bluish looking skin because of a condition called cyanosis. This condition occurs when their blood does not carry enough oxygen.

  • Will my child need multiple surgeries?

    Maybe. With corrective surgery, your child will feel better, but they may need additional procedures as they get older. For example, the artificial tube used to separate the connected arteries does not grow with your child and may need to be replaced.

  • Will my child be able to live a normal life?

    Yes. However, he or she will need lifelong care from a cardiologist who specializes in congenital heart defects. Even with successful treatment, your child may be at risk for an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia) or leaky heart valves later in life. Offering the full spectrum of heart care Children’s Health provides specialized care and treatments for adults of all ages. Learn more about our adult congenital heart disease program.