Aortopulmonary window is a rare heart defect in which there is a hole connecting the major artery taking blood from the heart to the body (the aorta) and the one taking blood from the heart to the lungs (pulmonary artery). The condition is congenital, which means it is present at birth.
Aortopulmonary window (APW) is a defect between the great vessels that results from failure of the conotruncal ridges to fuse. It is separate from truncus arteriosus in that it is associated with essentially normal aortic and pulmonary valves. The defect usually begins just above the sinuses of Valsalva and then extends a variable distance distally into the arch.
Symptoms can include:
- Delayed growth
- Heart failure
- Poor eating and lack of weight gain
- Rapid breathing and heartbeat
- Respiratory infections
Normally, blood flows through the pulmonary artery into the lungs, where it picks up oxygen. Then the blood travels back to the heart and is pumped to the aorta and the rest of the body.
The condition occurs when the aorta and pulmonary artery do not divide normally as the baby develops in the womb.
The health care provider will usually hear an abnormal heart sound (murmur) when listening to the child's heart with a stethoscope.
The Physician may order tests such as
- Cardiac catheterization - a thin tube inserted into the arteries around the heart to view the heart and blood vessels and directly measure pressure in the heart and lungs
- Chest x-ray
- Magnetic resonance imaging scan (MRI)
The condition usually requires open heart surgery to repair the defect. Surgery should be done as soon as possible after the diagnosis is made. In most cases, this is when the child is still a newborn.
During the procedure, a heart-lung machine takes over for the child's heart. The surgeon opens the aorta and closes the defect with a patch made either from a piece of the sac that encloses the heart (the pericardium) or a man-made material.