Defects in the body – particularly the heart – can prevent the correct and unobstructed flow of blood through its passages. In particular, naturally-occurring defects such as congenital heart disease or tricuspid atresia can prevent blood in the right ventricle from flowing through the pulmonary artery to the lungs. Known as a particular problem among newborn and infant children – the so-called “blue-baby syndrome” – these problems prevent children and other patients from receiving correct oxygenation of the blood via the passage to the lungs.
In the cases of such defects, a temporary corrective procedure is necessary until the defect can be repaired. Blalock-Taussig (BT) shunt procedure surgery is one procedure used to address this problem, though it is not a permanent solution. The purpose of the shunt is to correct the flow of blood through the pulmonary artery to the lungs. While not fixing the defect, it corrects the problem of circulation and prevents symptoms until such a time as the defect can be repaired.
The BT shunt is an artery-to-artery shunt which connects the subclavian or systemic artery to the pulmonary artery to allow blood flow to continue unobstructed. Mimicking the function of the ductus arteriosus – a blood vessel connecting the aorta to the main pulmonary artery – the procedure helps with oxygenation of the blood and reducing the load of the blood on the right ventricle, providing symptom relief to patients in the process.
Most BT shunts are tubes of 3 to 4 centimeters in diameter, made out of a synthetic material called GORE-TEX. They attach a section of the aorta to the pulmonary artery, redirecting the flow of blood through the body. This allows the blood to reach the lungs and receive more oxygen, relieving the symptoms of cyanosis (blueness) that the child or patient is experiencing.
BT shunts are typically in place for a period of about four to five months until such a time as the ductus closes, or that definitive repair can be attempted via a second operation. Given the nature of the defect or disease, full repair can sometimes be impossible.
Some of the many benefits of the procedure are that it:
- Provides relief to the patient
- Improves oxygen saturation
- Reduces blood flow load in the right ventricle
- Reorients blood flow to the lungs
Some of the many risks of the BT shunt procedure are as follows:
- Shunt blockage
- Excessive blood flow to lungs
- Tube infection
It is also worth noting that because the procedure is most commonly used on infants, toddlers and children, additional complications can arise.
BT Shunt Procedure in India
BT shunt procedure surgery in India is a simple, palliative procedure which can have many benefits for patients, particularly children. Palliative procedures, like the BT shunt procedure, are highly specialized with the goal of mitigating problems or defects within the body to the extent that symptoms are relieved and pain is minimized.
BT shunt procedure surgeons in India take great care to reduce the potential for harm to patients, and it is generally a safe, closed-heart procedure. Based out of Mumbai but with locations throughout India, PS Take Care is one hospital that specializes in the procedure. With BT shunt procedure surgery, their goal is to help provide informed advice to patients to allow them to make their own decisions, particularly those children affected.
BT shunt procedure surgery is a simple but important corrective procedure that can extend and save the life of patients. For more specific assessment of the risks and benefits of this procedure, patients or family members consult a doctor.