What are venovenous collaterals?

Cyanotic single ventricle congenital heart disease is a heart defect that is present at birth in which only one lower chamber of the heart pumps blood. The term cyanotic describes the bluish color of the child’s skin that results from a lack of oxygen in the bloodstream.

At some stages of palliative (symptom-reducing) surgery for cyanotic single ventricle congenital heart disease, small veins may open up and become larger. The small veins that enlarge are called venovenous collaterals. They allow blue blood to bypass the lungs and go directly back to the heart. This may result in an excessive blueness (cyanosis) of the child’s skin.

Coils and devices delivered within the blood vessel via a thin tube called a catheter can be used to stop (occlude) blood flow from bypassing the lungs. When the blood is able to enter the lungs, it can pick up oxygen that is necessary to support healthy functioning, and the child’s skin will return to a normal color.

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