Tricuspid atresia is an abnormal development of the right side of the heart. It includes a missing valve between the upper and lower chamber and a smaller than normal lower chamber. Tricuspid atresia can make it difficult for your heart to efficiently pump blood to the lungs to get oxygen. Some may also have holes in the wall between the left and right side of the heart. The holes allow oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix.

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
  • Conditions during pregnancy, 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 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.

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


Surgery is often needed right away. Follow-up surgeries may also be needed at ages 3-6 months and 2-5 years.

The goal of surgery is to:

  • Improve blood flow within the 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 to the lungs. Later, a series of surgeries will be done to 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