Treatment for pulmonary atresia
Specific treatment for pulmonary atresia will be determined by your child's physician.
Your child will most likely be admitted to the intensive care unit (ICU) or special care nursery once symptoms are noted. Initially, your child may be placed on oxygen, and possibly even on a ventilator, to assist his or her breathing. IV medications may be given to help the heart and lungs function more efficiently.
Other important aspects of initial treatment include the following:
A cardiac catheterization procedure can be used as a diagnostic procedure, as well as an initial treatment procedure for some heart defects. A cardiac catheterization procedure will usually be performed to evaluate the defect(s), and the amount of blood that is able to get to the lungs to be come oxygenated.
As part of the cardiac catheterization, a procedure called balloon atrial septostomy may be performed to improve mixing of oxygen-rich (red) blood and oxygen-poor (blue) blood between the right and left atria.
A special catheter with a balloon in the tip is used to create an opening in the atrial septum (wall between the left and right atria).
The catheter is guided through the foramen ovale (a small opening present in the atrial septum that closes shortly after birth) and into the left atrium.
The balloon is inflated.
The catheter is quickly pulled back through the hole, into the right atrium, and a hole is created, allowing blood to mix between the atria.
An IV medication called prostaglandin E1 may also be given to keep the ductus arteriosus from closing.
These interventions will allow time for your baby to stabilize his or her blood while more definite repair is planned.
Surgical repair. Ultimately, surgery is necessary to improve blood flow to the lungs on a permanent basis. The exact type of surgery needed depends on a number of factors, including the size of the right ventricle and whether there is a communication between the right and left ventricles (a ventricular septal defect or VSD). If there is a VSD, then the operation may involve closure of the VSD and placement of a conduit from the right ventricle to the pulmonary artery. This allows blood to leave the right ventricle through this conduit into the lungs. If there is no VSD, then a series of three operations are usually recommended and performed shortly after birth. In this series of operations, blood flow is redirected to the lungs and the body with various surgical connections. The first operation is placement of a Blalock-Taussig shunt (or BT shunt) that allows blood to flow to the lungs after the patent ductus arteriosus closes. The second operation is a Glenn procedure, where the superior vena cava is connected directly to the right lung artery. The third and final operation is a Fontan procedure, where the inferior vena cava is connected to the right lung artery.
Postoperative care for your child
After surgery, infants will return to the ICU to be closely monitored during recovery.
While your child is in the ICU, special equipment will be used to help him or her recover, and may include the following:
Ventilator. A machine that helps your child breathe while he or she is under anesthesia during the operation. A small, plastic tube is guided into the windpipe and attached to the ventilator, which breathes for your child while he or she is too sleepy to breathe effectively on his or her own. After a pulmonary atresia, children will benefit from remaining on the ventilator overnight or even longer so they can rest.
Intravenous (IV) catheters. Small, plastic tubes inserted through the skin into blood vessels to provide IV fluids and important medicines that help your child recover from the operation.
Arterial line. A specialized IV placed in the wrist or other area of the body where a pulse can be felt, that measures blood pressure continuously during surgery and while your child is in the ICU.
Nasogastric (NG) tube. A small, flexible tube that keeps the stomach drained of acid and gas bubbles that may build up during surgery.
Urinary catheter. A small, flexible tube that allows urine to drain out of the bladder and accurately measures how much urine the body makes, which helps determine how well the heart is functioning. After surgery, the heart will be a little weaker than it was before, and, therefore, the body may start to hold onto fluid, causing swelling and puffiness. Diuretics may be given to help the kidneys remove excess fluid from the body.
Chest tube. A drainage tube may be inserted to keep the chest free of blood that would otherwise accumulate after the incision is closed. Bleeding may occur for several hours, or even a few days after surgery.
Heart monitor. A machine that constantly displays a picture of your child's heart rhythm, and monitors heart rate, arterial blood pressure, and other values.
Your child may need other equipment not mentioned here to provide support while in the ICU, or afterwards. The hospital staff will explain all of the necessary equipment to you.
Your child will be kept as comfortable as possible with several different medications; some relieve pain, and some relieve anxiety. The staff will also ask for your input on how best to soothe and comfort your child.
After discharge from the ICU, your child will recuperate in another hospital unit before going home. You will learn how to care for your child at home before your child is discharged. Your child may need to take medications for a while. The staff will give you written instructions regarding medications, activity limitations, and follow-up appointments before your child is discharged.
Infants who spent a lot of time on a ventilator, or who were fairly ill while in the ICU, may have trouble feeding initially. These babies may have an oral aversion; they might equate something placed in the mouth, such as a pacifier or bottle, with a less pleasant sensation, such as being on the ventilator. Some infants are just tired, and need to build their strength up before they will be able to learn to bottle-feed. Strategies used to help infants with nutrition include the following:
High-calorie formula or breast milk. Special nutritional supplements may be added to formula or pumped breast milk that increase the number of calories in each ounce, thereby allowing your baby to drink less and still consume enough calories to grow properly.
Supplemental tube feedings. Feedings given through a small, flexible tube that passes through the nose, down the esophagus, and into the stomach, that can either supplement or take the place of bottle feedings. Infants who can drink part of their bottle, but not all, may be fed the remainder through the feeding tube. Infants who are too tired to bottle feed at all may receive their formula or breast milk through the feeding tube alone.
Caring for your child at home following PA surgical repair
Pain medications, such as acetaminophen or ibuprofen, may be recommended to keep your child comfortable. Your child's physician will discuss pain control before your child is discharged from the hospital.
If any special treatments are to be given at home, the nursing staff will ensure that you are able to provide them, or a home health agency may assist you.
You may receive additional instructions from your child's physicians and the hospital staff.
Long-term outlook after pulmonary atresia surgical repair
The outlook varies from child to child. Follow-up care at a center offering pediatric congenital cardiac care should be carried out regularly. It is not unexpected for multiple reoperations to be performed to replace conduits or revise a palliation.
After each operation, your infant will need to be followed by a pediatric cardiologist, who will make adjustments to medications, assist you with feeding problems, measure oxygen levels, and determine when it is time for the next operation.
There is significant risk for progressive development of complications, such as heart failure, dysrhythmias, and protein-losing enteropathy (liver congestion).
Pregnancy and other noncardiac surgeries pose major risks and require careful evaluation and discussion with a congenital cardiologist.
Regular follow-up care at a center offering pediatric or adult congenital cardiac care should continue throughout the individual’s lifespan.
Consult your child's physician regarding the specific outlook for your child.