ALCAPA Syndrome: A Heart Disease More Prevalent In Infants And Children

Heart diseases are not just prevalent in adults but also a rising concern in infants and children, leading to several deaths worldwide

Vani Malik
Written by: Vani MalikUpdated at: Feb 18, 2020 15:15 IST
ALCAPA Syndrome: A Heart Disease More Prevalent In Infants And Children

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We all know the repercussions of heart diseases when it strikes in adults. However, with rising stress levels in parents and lifestyle-related disorders, a lot many infants and children are equally prone to heart problems. A disease, which we thought only affected adults, is now ruling the roost in children as below as the age of early infancy too. There exist several types of heart concerns in kids, which include viral infections, congenital heart defects or acquired heart problems due to genetics. One such heart syndrome prevalent in childhood is the ALCAPA Syndrome.


Classified under the rare congenital heart defect (CHD), the full form of ALCAPA is Anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery. It is characterised when left coronary artery, which carries blood to the heart muscle, begins from the pulmonary artery instead of aorta. The blood vessel which supplies blood to the heart muscle is not attached at its normal position. Dr Gaurav Garg, Senior Consultant, Pediatric Cardiology at Fortis Hospital, Shalimar Bagh, said, " The incidence of this condition is only 1 in 3,00,000 babies. It is easy for most skilled doctors to miss out on this rare syndrome. If not diagnosed or treated on time, this disease can claim lives on infants before the complete one year of their birth. It becomes all the more complicated when such complex surgeries are performed on infants as the risk factor is more."

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What Leads To ALCAPA Syndrome

In a healthy heart, the left coronary artery originates from the aorta. It supplies oxygen and blood to the heart muscle on the left side of the heart as well as the mitral valve. The aorta is the main artery, which is responsible for circulated blood enriched with oxygen. This is not the case with kids suffering from ALCAPA syndrome as the major blood vessel connected to the heart is different, leading to the supply of blood without oxygen. 

Symptoms Of ALCAPA Syndrome


Following are some prominent symptoms of Anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery (symptoms of ALCAPA Syndrome) in infants. These symptoms can appear as early as two months after the birth:

  • Excessive sweating or crankiness while breastfeeding
  • Pale skin colour
  • Poor retention of breastfed milk
  • Rapid and noisy breathing
  • Irritability regularly can also be confused with colic in babies
  • Pain in the body, even a significant symptom of colic in babies

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Diagnosis of ALCAPA Syndrome


This rare heart defect is mostly experienced or diagnosed during the early infancy. In some cases, the fault remains unattended, even leading to deaths. Some signs that can be an indication of ALCAPA in infants include arrhythmia (irregular heartbeats), enlarged heart, murmuring of heart and rapid pulse. Hence, these tests are generally performed for the diagnosis of ALCAPA in kids:

  • X-Ray of chest
  • Echo test or an echocardiogram, which gives the image of the heart structure and the blood flow within the heart
  • An ECG to understand the activity of the heart
  • MRI to analyse the heart through an image in detail
  • Catheterisation where a thin tube or a catheter is placed in the heart to keep a check on the oxygen levels

If not treated on time, ALCAPA can have some significant complications, which include heart attacks, arrhythmia, heart failure and even permanent damage to the heart, leading to prolonged treatment.

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