Transposition of the Great Arteries

Heart with Transposition of the Great Arteries

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The aorta normally originates from the left ventricle and is the main artery that carries oxygen-rich blood to the body. The pulmonary artery is the main artery that carries deoxygenated blood from the right ventricle to the lungs. In a case of transposition of the great arteries, these two main arteries are inverted. In other words, the aorta originates from the right ventricle and the pulmonary artery originates from the left ventricle.

Therefore, the pulmonary artery carries oxygenated blood from the left ventricle back to the lungs and the aorta carries deoxygenated blood from the right ventricle to the body causing the baby to appear cyanotic, or blue. Without a way for the oxygenated blood of the left ventricle to reach the aorta and, in turn, the rest of the body, the child will not survive. Often, an associated ASD or VSD is present allowing blood to flow between the right and left sides of the heart.

In other cases, a PDA is present allowing blood flow between the pulmonary artery and aorta. Early surgical correction is essential. The procedure, known as the Arterial Switch operation, involves transposing the two great arteries as well as the coronary arteries (the small blood vessels that supply oxygenated blood to the heart muscle itself).


What is Normal Cardiac Anatomy?

When your child has a congenital heart defect, there's usually something wrong with the structure of his or her heart's structure.

 
Learn More About Normal Cardiac Anatomy

Heart with Normal Cardiac Anatomy

Note: To view heart animations, you need the latest version of the
Adobe Flash Player.


When your child has a congenital heart defect, there's usually something wrong with the structure of his or her heart's structure.

The heart is composed of four chambers. The two upper chambers, known as atria, collect blood as it flows back to the heart. The two lower chambers, known as ventricles, pump blood with each heartbeat to the two main arteries (the pulmonary artery and the aorta). The septum is the wall that divides the heart into right and left sides. The atrial septum separates the right and left atria; likewise, the ventricular septum separates the two ventricles.

There are four valves that control the flow of blood through the heart. These flap-like structures allow blood to flow in only one direction. The tricuspid and mitral valves, also known as the atrioventricular valves, separate the upper and lower chambers of the heart. The aortic and pulmonary valves, also known as the arterial valves, separate the ventricles from the main arteries. Oxygen-depleted blood returns from the body and drains into the right atrium via the superior and inferior vena cavas. The blood in the right atrium then passes through the tricuspid valve and enters the right ventricle.

Next, the blood passes through the pulmonary valve, enters the pulmonary artery, and travels to the lungs where it is replenished with oxygen. The oxygen-rich blood returns to the heart via the pulmonary veins, draining into the left atrium. The blood in the left atrium passes through the bicuspid, or mitral, valve and enters the left ventricle.

Finally, the oxygen-rich blood flows through the aortic valve into the aorta and out to the rest of the body.