Medical Definition of Blue baby operation

  • Medical Author:
    William C. Shiel Jr., MD, FACP, FACR

    Dr. Shiel received a Bachelor of Science degree with honors from the University of Notre Dame. There he was involved in research in radiation biology and received the Huisking Scholarship. After graduating from St. Louis University School of Medicine, he completed his Internal Medicine residency and Rheumatology fellowship at the University of California, Irvine. He is board-certified in Internal Medicine and Rheumatology.

Blue baby operation: A surgical procedure for a baby who is cyanotic (blue) due to a heart malformation that prevents blood from being fully oxygenated. The bluish color reflects the deoxygenated state of the blood. The surgery is designed to palliate or ideally correct the heart defect and relieve the cyanosis.

The term originated with a pioneering heart operation named after the surgeon Dr. Alfred Blalock (1899-1964) and the children's heart specialist Dr. Helen Taussig (1898-1986). Dr. Taussig designed the first blue baby operation and Dr. Blalock performed it. The operation was done to treat a child with a previously inoperable heart malformation called the tetralogy of Fallot. The surgical procedure joined an artery leaving the heart to an artery leading to the lungs to give the blood a second chance at oxygenation. The joining (anastomosis) was of the subclavian artery to the pulmonary artery. It was the first blue baby operation and came to be known as the Blalock-Taussig shunt. This operation, which was done on November 29, 1944 at the Johns Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, is a major landmark in the history of children's heart surgery.

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Reviewed on 10/30/2018

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