Carl R. Darnall Army Medical Center - Health Library

Atrioventricular Canal Defect—Child

(AV Canal Defect—Child; Complete AV Canal—Child; Complete Common AV Canal—Child; Endocardial Cushion 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

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Blood Flow Through the Heart

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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
  • Maternal conditions and factors, 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.

RESOURCES:

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org

Family Doctor—American Family Physician
http://familydoctor.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Cardiovascular Society
http://www.ccs.ca

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
http://www.heartandstroke.ca

REFERENCES:

Atrioventricular canal defect. American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/AboutCongenitalHeartDefects/Complete-Atrioventricular-Canal-defect-CAVC_UCM_307023_Article.jsp. Updated May 4, 2017. Accessed December 27, 2017.

Atrioventricular canal defect. Boston Children's Hospital website. Available at: http://www.childrenshospital.org/az/Site521/mainpageS521P0.html. Accessed December 27, 2017.

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 June 16, 2017. Accessed December 27 ,2017.

Last reviewed December 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review BoardKari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 12/20/2014