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Tricuspid Atresia

Posted in Misc. Drugs, Paxil Birth Defects

Tricuspid atresia is a congenital (from birth) heart defect recently linked to maternal use of Paxil® during pregnancy.[1]  Paxil® is a selective serotonin-reuptake inhibitor (SSRI), a new type of antidepressant drug that helps regulate serotonin levels in the brain, a chemical involved in mood regulation.

In children born with tricuspid atresia, “the tricuspid heart valve is missing or abnormally developed.  The defect blocks blood flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle.”[2]

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Normal Heart vs. Heart in Tricuspid Atresia

As we can see from the above image, in persons with tricuspid atresia, the tricuspid valve is undeveloped.

PubMed Health, a service of the U.S. National Library of Medicine states that “Normally, blood flows from the body into the right atrium, then through the tricuspid valve to the right ventricle and on to the lungs.  If the tricuspid valve does not open, the blood cannot flow from the right atrium to the right ventricle.  Blood ultimately cannot enter the lungs, where it must go to pick up oxygen (become oxygenated).”[3]

Symptoms of Tricuspid Atresia

Symptoms of Tricuspid Atresia include:

  • “Bluish color to the skin
  • Fast breathing
  • Fatigue
  • Poor growth
  • Shortness of breath”[4]

Treatment of Tricupid Atresia

When a child is diagnosed with tricuspid atresia, the newborn must quickly be transferred to an intensive care unit where “prostaglandin E1 is [administered] to keep the blood circulating to the lungs.”[5]  A ventilator may be required to keep the newborn breathing.[6]

While prostaglandin E1 and the use of a ventilator may stabilize the newborn, tricuspid atresia “always requires surgery.”[7]  This surgery is highly invasive, and usually takes place in three stages.  First, the baby’s blood flow is redirected with the use of an artificial blood vessel to ensure that adequate blood reaches the lungs for oxygenation.[8]

After this stage, the baby most often can return home albeit under the close supervision of a physician and with the use of daily medication.

The second stage of the three-part surgery required to treat tricuspid atresia is called “the Glenn shunt of Hemifontan procedure.”[9]  In this stage, the major arteries carrying oxygen-deficient blood to the heart are connected directly to the pulmonary artery, thus partially bypassing the ineffective right ventricle and proceeding directly to the lungs where it is oxygenated.[10]

In the third stage of surgery this surgery, a procedure called the Fontan procedure, the remaining smaller arteries carrying oxygen-deficient blood to the heart are connected directly to the pulmonary artery, completely bypassing the ineffective right ventricle, and proceeding directly to the lungs for oxygenation.[11]

While “surgery usually will improve the condition”[12], complications may still occur.

Complications of Tricuspid Atresia

PubMed Health states that possible complications include:

  • “Irregular, fast heart rhythms (arrhythmias)
  • Chronic diarrhea (from a disease called protein loosing enteropathy)
  • Heart failure
  • Fluid in the abdomen (ascites) and in the lungs (pleural effusion)
  • Blockage of the artificial shunt
  • Strokes and other nervous system complications
  • Sudden death”[13]

We Can Help

While there is no guaranteed way to prevent tricuspid atresia, there are ways to reduce your child’s risk of being born with this terrible condition.  First and foremost, pregnant women should avoid the use of SSRI drugs during pregnancy, especially Paxil®.  Because Paxil® side effects such as increased risk of tricuspid atresia were not included on Paxil® warning labels, Paxil® lawsuits are currently being filed to seek compensation for families whose loved one has suffered unnecessarily from Paxil® heart defects.  If you believe that Paxil® has caused injury to someone you love, please do not hesitate to contact our law firm for a free consultation at (855) 452-5529 or by e-mail at justinian@dangerousdrugs.us.  Our team has the resources, skills, and compassion required to secure the justice your family deserves.


[1] Sadler, T.W. et al (2011) “Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) and heart defects: Potential mechanisms for the observed associations” Reproductive Toxicology Vol. 32; pp. 484-489

[2] “Tricuspid atresia – PubMed Health” PubMed Health. U.S. National Library of Medicine. © 2012 A.D.A.M., Inc. available at <http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002100> accessed 22 January 2013

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

[5] Ibid.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid.

[8] Ibid.

[9] Ibid.

[10] Ibid.

[11] Ibid.

[12] Ibid.

[13] Ibid.