Truncus Arteriosus (also called Common Truncus)
Truncus arteriosus is an uncommon congenital heart defect where a baby is born with a single blood vessel (called a truncus) coming from the main pumping chambers of the heart (the ventricles) instead of two vessels (one from each ventricle). This single blood vessel also shares one valve coming from both heart chambers and the single valve is typically positioned over a hole between the two heart chambers. In addition, the pulmonary arteries that take blood to the lungs come off from this common single blood vessel. Very early in fetal life the developing heart is formed with a truncus vessel, and as development proceeds, this vessel is supposed to divide into two: the aorta and the pulmonary artery. For an unknown reason, this division of the vessel does not occur in some babies, and thus they are born with this particular heart defect called “truncus arteriosus”. Babies will typically be bluish/grey (called cyanosis) because not all the blood going to the body will have passed through the lungs to receive oxygen. Babies with truncus arteriosus will need surgery very early in life. If not, the lungs will become damaged by the excessive blood flow.
Periodic examinations from a cardiologist will be necessary throughout life, with tests such as echocardiograms, stress tests and Holter monitoring (collecting information about the heart's electrical activity that makes it beat in a regular rate and rhythm). This will be essential so that complications can be quickly detected and treated.
Antibiotics will be necessary when individuals have dental work so that the bacteria released in the mouth do not travel to the heart and cause an infection of the heart (called endocarditis). Children with heart conditions should have excellent dental care since the mouth is a source of bacteria that can be passed on to the heart and cause infection.
Our program has been tracking common truncus among live births in select counties since 2005 and has now expanded statewide.
- Using data from births in Hennepin and Ramsey county residents between 2014-2018, we found that fewer than 1 baby was born with common truncus per 10,000 births.
- Using this data, we estimate about 4 babies are born with common truncus every year in Minnesota.