Anomalous Left Coronary Artery From the Pulmonary Artery (ALCAPA) Reimplantation Surgery

In a healthy heart, both coronary arteries arise from the aorta. In one type of heart defect, the left coronary artery comes off the pulmonary artery instead of the aorta. This condition is called anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery (ALCAPA). Similarly, it is possible for the right coronary artery to arise from the pulmonary artery instead of the aorta.

This is a type of congenital (present from birth) heart disease. Norton Children’s Heart Institute surgeons are experienced in treating patients with ALCAPA. The surgery moves the origin of the left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery to the aorta, from which it should originate.

Following ALCAPA reimplantation surgery, most children have a good quality of life and can live without limitations on sports or other activities.

ALCAPA Symptoms

Patients with ALCAPA may show symptoms in infancy. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Sweating with feeds
  • Not moving around
  • Fast breathing
  • Not eating enough
  • Skin that looks mottled, like a lacy red or blue pattern
  • Not gaining enough weight
  • Shortness of breath, particularly after feeds

Older patients may:

  • Have fatigue
  • Quickly tire with exercise
  • Fast breathing
  • Abdominal pain
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Nausea

ALCAPA is a very serious form of congenital heart disease. Without prompt diagnosis and treatment, the heart can suffer damage from a lack of oxygen.

Diagnosing ALCAPA

In infants, low energy, poor feeding/nursing and difficulty breathing may signal a problem with the heart, such as ALCAPA.

The following tests may provide more details to find the diagnosis:

  • Cardiac MRI (magnetic resonance imaging): A test that uses radio waves, magnets and a computer to form three-dimensional pictures of the heart. These pictures can show structural issues, such as ALCAPA.
  • Chest X-ray: This shows pictures of the heart and lungs, and can show heart issues, extra blood flow or fluid in the lungs.
  • Echocardiogram (echo): This test uses sound waves (ultrasound) to produce images of the heart and blood vessels’ structures on a screen. It can show the structure and function of the heart including where the coronary arteries originate. Norton Children’s Heart Institute has 28 tele-echo locations in Kentucky and Southern Indiana so many patients don’t have to travel far from home for an echocardiogram.
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): This is a test that checks the heart’s electrical activity to show damage or irregular rhythms, suggesting an issue with the heart.This may be an important study in diagnosing ALCAPA since the heart can be damaged from the left coronary artery being supplied with oxygen poor blood for a period of time.
  • Heart catheterization: This invasive procedure studies the structure, function, and provides direct pressure measurements of the heart chambers. Catheterization can provide the visual angiogram images to also diagnose ALCAPA.

How Does ALCAPA Reimplantation Occur?

This complex surgery requires experience, skill and training. The board-certified and fellowship-trained specialists at Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, are the leading providers of pediatric heart care in Louisville and Southern Indiana.

The pediatric cardiothoracic team at Norton Children’s Heart Institute will review your child’s case and choose a reimplantation surgery strategy tailored to your child.

ALCAPA repair includes:

  • Cardiopulmonary bypass
  • Separating the anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery
  • Lengthening the coronary artery if necessary, and then stitching the anomalous left coronary artery into the aorta
  • Creating a hole from the aorta to the anomalous left coronary artery
  • Repairing the pulmonary artery
  • Depending on the exact anatomy of the patient’s lesion, surgeons may need to address the anomaly
  • Creating a link between the large artery that carries blood to the left arm and upper body (left subclavian artery) and the left coronary artery, allowing oxygen-rich blood from the subclavian artery to reach the left coronary artery and the heart

The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has ranked Norton Children’s Heart Institute’s pediatric heart care among the best in the region. With our network of remote diagnostic and treatment services in Kentucky and Southern Indiana, your child can stay close to home for quality care.

ALCAPA Reimplantation Surgery Complications and After-Care

Many kids will be able to stop taking medicines weeks or months after surgery. Some children will need to continue taking medicines after surgery, including:

  • Beta blockers and ACE inhibitors: Medications that help the heart not work as hard
  • Inotropic agents: Medications that make the heart pump harder
  • Water pills: Medications that help the body get rid of salt and water

Children with ALCAPA will need lifelong care by a cardiologist. Children born with ALCAPA are at an increased risk for heart rhythm issues later in life.

Why Choose Norton Children’s Heart Institute

No other congenital heart surgery program in Kentucky, Ohio or Southern Indiana is ranked higher by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons than the Norton Children’s Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Program.

  • Norton Children’s Hospital has been a pioneer in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, performing Kentucky’s first pediatric heart transplant in 1986 and becoming the second site in the United States to perform an infant heart transplant.
  • Our board-certified and fellowship-trained pediatric cardiovascular surgeons are leaders in the field as clinicians and researchers.
  • More than 5,000 children a year visit Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, for advanced heart care.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute successfully performs more than 17,500 procedures a year.
  • The Society of Thoracic Surgeons ranked Norton Children’s Heart Institute among the best in the region after studying years of our patients’ outcomes and our ability to handle a range of pediatric heart conditions, including the most severe.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute has satellite outpatient centers in Bowling Green, Frankfort, Owensboro and Paducah; 28 tele-echocardiography locations in Kentucky and Southern Indiana; and six fetal echocardiography locations across Kentucky.
  • The American Board of Thoracic Surgery has certified the cardiothoracic surgeons at Norton Children’s Hospital with subspecialty certification in congenital heart surgery.
  • The Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit is under construction to give our patients the most advanced cardiac intensive care unit available.
  • Our multidisciplinary approach to pediatric heart surgery brings together our specialists in cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology, anesthesiology, cardiac critical care and other areas to create a complete care plan tailored for your child.
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