Anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery (ALCAPA) is a heart defect in which the left coronary artery (which carries blood to the heart muscle) is connected to the pulmonary artery instead of to the aorta.
ALCAPA is present at birth (congenital).
Anomalous origin of the left coronary artery arising from the pulmonary artery; ALCAPA; ALCAPA syndrome; Bland-White-Garland syndrome
An anomalous left coronary artery from the pulmonary artery is a problem that occurs when the baby's heart is developing early in the pregnancy. The developing blood vessels in the heart do not connect correctly.
In the normal heart, the left coronary artery starts in the aorta -- the major blood vessel that takes oxygen-rich blood from the heart to the rest of the body.
In children with ALCAPA, the left coronary artery starts at the pulmonary artery -- the major blood vessel that takes oxygen-poor blood from the heart to the lungs.
When the left coronary artery starts in the pulmonary artery, it carries oxygen-poor blood to the left side of the heart. When the heart does not get enough oxygen, it begins to die, a condition leading to a heart attack in the baby.
A condition known as "coronary steal" further damages the heart in babies with ALCAPA. The low blood pressure in the pulmonary artery causes blood from the abnormal left coronary artery to flow toward the pulmonary artery instead of toward the heart. This results in less blood and oxygen to the heart, which will also lead to a heart attack in a baby. Coronary steal develops over time in babies with ALCAPA if the condition is not treated early.
Symptoms of anomalous left coronary artery in an infant include:
Symptoms can appear within the first 2 months of the baby's life.
ALCAPA can be diagnosed in an infant. However, this defect may not be diagnosed until someone is a child or adult.
Signs of ALCAPA include:
Tests for anomalous left coronary artery include:
Surgery is needed to correct ALCAPA. Usually only one surgery is required, depending on the baby's condition and the size of the involved blood vessels.
If the heart muscle supporting the mitral valve is seriously damaged from decreased oxygen, the baby may also need surgery to repair or replace the valve. The mitral valve regulates blood flow between the chambers on the left side of the heart.
If the baby's heart is already severely damaged from lack of oxygen, a heart transplant may be an option.
Without treatment, most babies do not survive their first year. Those who survive without treatment may have severe complications and other cardiovascular problems, or could die suddenly during the following years.
With timely treatment such as surgery, most babies do well and can expect a normal life. However, they need routine follow-ups with a heart specialist (cardiologist).
Complications of ALCAPA include:
Call your health care provider if your baby:
Scholz TD, Reinking BE. Congenital heart disease. In: Gleason CA, Devaskar S, eds. Avery's Diseases of the Newborn. 9th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 55.