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by Deanna M. Neff, MPH
Truncus arteriosus is a defect in the large blood vessels that leave the heart.
Normally, two large blood vessels, called the aorta and pulmonary artery carry blood away from the heart. The aorta carries oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body. The pulmonary artery carries oxygen-poor blood from the heart to the lungs. As the heart develops. a section of these two blood vessels sometimes combine together. It creates one large vessel called the truncus arteriosus. The oxygen-poor and oxygen-rich blood leaving the heart mix in this combined blood vessel. The mixed blood decreases the amount of oxygen-rich blood that reaches the body.
The defect also includes a large hole in the wall between the lower chambers of the heart.
Truncus arteriosus is a problem with the development of the heart while the baby is in the womb. It is not known exactly why some hearts develop this way.
Risk Factors TOP
Factors that may increase the risk for congenital heart disease may include:
Low oxygen levels in the body may cause symptoms such as:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A rapid heart rate may be detected during the exam.
Your child's bodily fluids may be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
Images may be taken of your child's bodily structures. This can be done with:
Your child's heart function may be tested. This can be done with:
Early treatment is important to help prevent complications such as heart failure. Treatment options may include:
Surgery is usually done right away, during infancy. The type of surgery depends on how severe the defect is. The goals are to improve circulation, which may be done by:
Other surgeries may be needed as your child grows.
Medications may be given to help support your child's heart before surgery. Medication may be given to:
After surgery, your child may need antibiotics before certain medical or dental procedures. This is to prevent an infection in the heart.
Lifelong Monitoring TOP
Your child will have regular exams from a heart specialist.
It is not always possible to prevent heart defects since the cause is not clear. You can reduce the risk of heart defects by practicing good prenatal care such as:
American Heart Association
Family Doctor—American Family Physician
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Truncus arteriosus. American Heart Association website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated January 8, 2013. Accessed November 10, 2014.
Truncus arteriosus. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116308/Truncus-arteriosus. Updated January 25, 2016. Accessed September 29, 2016.
Truncus arteriosus. Johns Hopkins University, Cove Point Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Updated May 16, 2011. Accessed November 10, 2014.
Last reviewed December 2015 by Kari Kassir, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014
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