Diagnosis

Atrioventricular canal defect may be detected during pregnancy when an ultrasound examination is performed on the fetus’s heart or special heart imaging. After birth, symptoms of complete atrioventricular canal defect usually develop in the first several weeks of life. The disease can be diagnosed during a physical examination. Using a stethoscope, a doctor will often hear a heart murmur (abnormal heart sound).

In case of finding noticeable symptoms, the doctor will possibly recommend any of the following tests:

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This procedure captures the heart’s electrical activity. Sensors (electrodes) are applied to the chest, then it is attached to the monitor to show the heart rate. An ECG can also identify cardiac disease and enlarged heart chambers.
  • Echocardiogram: are pictures of the heart taken while it is beating by using sound waves to detect a hole, valvular conditions or irregular blood flow in the heart.
  • Chest X-ray: Shows pictures of the heart and lungs to detect an enlargement of the heart.
  • Cardiac catheterization: the procedure will insert a narrow tube (catheter) into a blood vessel, commonly at the groin area, and then into the heart. A dye runs through the catheter to improve the visualization of the blood vessel on X-rays. This procedure can measure pressure in the heart chambers.

Treatment

To recover from atrioventricular canal defect regardless of its type, a patient needs to undergo surgery. A doctor places one patch or more on the hole of the heart wall. The heart tissue will grow over the patch(es) and make it become a permanent part of the heart’s lining. One surgery or other types of surgery may be needed for full treatment.

  • Partial atrioventricular canal defect: you might need mitral valve replacement surgery in case the valve cannot be fixed through surgery.
  • Complete atrioventricular canal defect: your doctor might suggest the tricuspid valve and the mitral valve to be replaced in case of being unable to receive surgery to separate the irregular large valve between the upper and lower heart chambers into two valves.

After surgery

In case there is a leaky heart valve, follow-up screening with a cardiologist for the rest of life will be needed even when the surgery has been done successfully.

In most cases, a follow-up screening is done at least every year. Apart from that, the patient can live a normal everyday life.

Patients born with a heart condition which was already treated are recommended to consult with a cardiologist, throughout their life as they might need special attention for any possible cardiac or non-cardiac surgery in the future.

In any of the following cases, a patient who is about to undergo dental procedures or any other kind of surgery will possibly need to take preventive antibiotics:

  • Some heart conditions persist after surgery
  • Having heart valve replacement surgery
  • Having artificial material placed in the heart from cardiac surgery
  • Scheduling for valvular surgery within the next six months

Most patients who have undergone atrioventricular canal defect surgery, without complications such as a leaky heart valve, do not need further surgical treatment. However, if the heart muscle becomes inflamed or infected, antibiotics might be prescribed to treat it.

Atrioventricular canal defect