Name This Disease: What Congenital Heart Defect?
May 16, 2013 5:47 PM   Subscribe

My father was born with a heart defect, and had surgery as a baby. It was always described to me as his heart being "half veins". Can anyone make a good guess as to what it might have been?

I do not speak to that side of the family any more for REASONS. However, no one in the family back when I did speak to him seemed to remember specifically what it was. My grandmother, his mother, didn't remember, and my family isn't very medically minded, so that's not surprising. At least 5 years ago I looked it up, and based on that description I was able to find something that sounded really close. Now, I've forgotten what it was, and never wrote it down.

My father was born in 1950. I believe the surgery was done shortly after birth. He had a scar on his chest from it; I could swear it went from sternum to under his left pectoral muscle, although google images doesn't show similar scars so I could be wrong, it could have just been his sternum. The only description I remember was that he said that he was born with half his heart being veins. I think he probably meant blood vessels. The defect I found I recall being similar to what was described to me, but different in such a way that would make sense to be misinterpreted as being "half veins." (I hate that I can remember that much, but not what it was.)

I mention finding it before, because somehow I was able to use that little bit of info to find it (or what I thought was it). Now I can't. Anyone have any good guesses?
posted by [insert clever name here] to Health & Fitness (5 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
PDA? Where the valve separating the oxygen-rich blood from the oxygen-poor blood doesn't close right?
posted by selfmedicating at 5:53 PM on May 16, 2013

Best answer: If your father was born in 1950 and operated on before the age of 2, his surgery was closed heart, I believe. You can read about the history of early closed heart surgery for congenital disorders here. It sounds like the most common of the operations done at the time was the Blalcok-Taussig shunt, which correct a variety of cyanotic heart disorders by mimicking a patent ductus arteriosus. Perhaps your father had hypoplastic right heart syndrome corrected by the Blalcok-Taussig? Hypoplasia is an underdevelopment of half the heart that might be understood as "half veins."
posted by reren at 6:20 PM on May 16, 2013

I'm thinking it might be what's called transposition of the great vessels, a birth defect that involves any mis-arrangement of blood vessels of the heart. Wikipedia has a good little blurb on it.
posted by aryma at 7:26 PM on May 16, 2013

Best answer: Hmm... yes, veins are blood vessels, but it's hard to imagine any of the typical congenital heart defects being described as either half veins or half blood vessels. I think hypoplastic right heart syndrome is a good guess. Other thoughts, although kind of a stretch:

- Transposition of the great vessels: meaning that some of the major blood vessels (veins or arteries) connected to the heart are swapped or malpositioned. (on preview, jinx with aryma!).
- Total anomalous pulmonary venous return: The pulmonary veins are malpositioned and they connect to the systemic vasculature such as portal veins or superior vena cava. I'm not sure why this would be "half veins" but... it does involve veins!
posted by treehorn+bunny at 7:32 PM on May 16, 2013

Response by poster: Looking at the answers, I think I thought at the time that it was the Total anomalous pulmonary venous return, but now, hearing your answers, I wonder if it was hypoplasia. Does the year it was treated help narrow it down? I.E. one we could correct back then, and one we couldn't?

Chances are thought that I can't say for certainly like I thought I could. When I found it the first time, I felt an *AH HA* moment, being sure whatever I found was it. I don't feel that way now; so my guess is I was wrong then, and the description is just too vague to know for sure.
posted by [insert clever name here] at 10:34 PM on May 16, 2013

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