A Blalock-Taussig shunt is a surgical procedure that helps improve oxygenation of the blood. Normally, blood flows to the lungs to pick up oxygen to deliver to the body (see fig. 1). A Blalock-Taussig shunt is used in cases of congenital heart defects that cause inadequate oxygenation of the blood (see fig. 2). This procedure is often used to temporarily until further procedures can be performed to correct the actual heart defect. This procedure can be performed by cutting the subclavian artery and attaching it to the pulmonary artery. Blood then flows from the aorta, through the left subclavian artery, and to the lungs. This method is called a classical Blalock-Taussig shunt (see fig. 3). A modified Blalock-Taussig shunt uses a synthetic Goretex graft to connect the subclavian artery and the pulmonary artery (see fig. 4).
Figure 1: Normal blood flow to the lungs.
Figure 2: Infant with congenital heart defect causing low oxygen levels.
Figure 3: Classical Blalock-Taussig shunt.
Figure 4: Modified Blalock-Taussig shunt.
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