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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Tetralogy of Fallot?

Cyanosis is an important sign of tetralogy of Fallot. Cyanosis is a bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails. Low oxygen levels in the blood cause cyanosis.

Babies who have unrepaired tetralogy of Fallot sometimes have "tet spells." These spells happen in response to an activity like crying or having a bowel movement.

A tet spell occurs when the oxygen level in the blood suddenly drops. This causes the baby to become very blue. The baby also may:

  • Have a hard time breathing
  • Become very tired and limp
  • Not respond to a parent's voice or touch
  • Become very fussy
  • Pass out

In years past, when tetralogy of Fallot wasn't treated in infancy, children would get very tired during exercise and could faint. Now, doctors repair tetralogy of Fallot in infancy to prevent these symptoms.

Another common sign of tetralogy of Fallot is a heart murmur. A heart murmur is an extra or unusual sound that doctors might hear while listening to the heart.

The sound occurs because the heart defect causes abnormal blood flow through the heart. However, not all heart murmurs are signs of congenital heart defects. Many healthy children have heart murmurs.

Babies who have tetralogy of Fallot may tire easily while feeding. Thus, they may not gain weight or grow as quickly as children who have healthy hearts. Also, normal growth depends on a normal workload for the heart and normal flow of oxygen-rich blood to all parts of the body.

Children who have tetralogy of Fallot also may have clubbing. Clubbing is the widening or rounding of the skin or bone around the tips of the fingers.

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Last Updated: July 1, 2011