Tricuspid atresia is an abnormal development of the right side of the heart. It includes a missing valve between the upper and lower chamber. Tricuspid atresia makes it difficult for your heart to efficiently pump blood to the lungs to get oxygen. Holes will be present in the walls between the left and right side of the heart that cause oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix. These holes are necessary to allow blood to be brought to the lungs before a repair can be done. It is often associated with a smaller than normal right lower chamber and abnormalities of the pulmonary artery and aorta.

Heart Chambers and Valves
heart anatomy

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Blood Flow Through the Heart

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Tricuspid atresia develops when the baby is in the womb. It is not known exactly why some hearts develop this way.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk for congenital heart defects like tricuspid atresia include:

  • Family history of congenital heart defect
  • Chromosomal disorder such as Down syndrome
  • Previous pregnancy with fetal heart abnormalities or miscarriage
  • Maternal factors, such as:
    • Being infected with a virus
    • Having poorly controlled diabetes
    • Drinking alcohol
    • Taking certain medications


Symptoms may include:

  • Blue or pale grayish skin color
  • Fast breathing
  • Sweating
  • Poor feeding/poor weight gain
  • Fatigue


Tricuspid atresia may be diagnosed before birth.

After birth, a tricuspid atresia may be suspected if the baby has a blue-ish color or heart failure, and a heart murmur is detected during a physical exam.

Images may be taken of your baby's bodily structures. This can be done with:

Your child's heart function may be tested. This can be done with:


Treatment is important to prevent severe complications such as heart failure. Treatments may include:


Medication may be given to:

  • Improve the levels of oxygen in the blood.
  • Manage the level of fluids in the body to decrease workload on the heart.
  • Treat heart failure.
  • Prevent a respiratory infection called bronchiolitis.

Oxygen may also be given to increase the amount of oxygen in the blood.


Surgery is often needed right away to restore normal blood flow to the lungs. Follow-up surgeries are needed at ages 3-6 months and 2-5 years.

The goal of surgery is to:

  • Improve blood flow within the lungs and heart.
  • Restore connections between the heart, lungs, and body

The exact surgery will depend on the type and severity of defects that are present. For example, a shunt may be placed to increase blood flow between the sides of the heart. Later, a series of surgeries will be done to further reroute blood flow through the heart, lungs, and body.

Lifelong Monitoring

Your child will have regular exams from a heart specialist. Your child may also need antibiotics before certain medical or dental procedures to prevent a heart infection.


Preventing fetal heart defects may not always be possible. Good prenatal care may reduce some type of congenital heart defects. Prenatal care includes:

  • Visiting the doctor regularly to monitor your health and the health of the baby
  • Eating nutritious food and taking prenatal vitamins
  • Avoiding alcohol, smoking, and using drugs during pregnancy
  • Practicing good hygiene and staying away from people who are sick

American Heart Association

Family Doctor—American Academy of Family Physicians


Canadian Cardiovascular Society

Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada


Tricuspid atresia. Boston Children’s Hospital website. Available at: Accessed December 27, 2017. Accessed December 27, 2017.

Tricuspid atresia. Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia website. Available at: Accessed December 27, 2017.

Tricuspid atresia. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Updated May 11, 2017. Accessed December 27, 2017.

Last reviewed November 2018 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD  Last Updated: 12/20/2014