St. Luke's Hospital
Located in Chesterfield, MO
Main Number: 314-434-1500
Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
Find a Physician Payment Options Locations & Directions
Follow us on: facebook twitter Mobile Email Page Email Page Print Page Print Page Increase Font Size Decrease Font Size Font Size
Meet the Doctor
Spirit of Women
Community Health Needs Assessment
Home > Health Information

Multimedia Encyclopedia


    Coronary artery fistula

    Coronary artery fistula is an abnormal connection between one of the coronary arteries and a heart chamber or another blood vessel. The coronary arteries are blood vessels that bring oxygen-rich blood to the heart.

    Fistula means abnormal connection.


    A coronary artery fistula is often congenital, meaning that it is present at birth. It generally occurs when one of the coronary arteries fails to form properly, usually when the baby is developing in the womb. The coronary artery abnormally attaches to one of the chambers of the heart (the atrium or ventricle) or another blood vessel (for example, the pulmonary artery).

    A coronary artery fistula can also develop after birth. It may be caused by:

    • An infection that weakens the wall of the coronary artery and the heart
    • Certain types of heart surgery
    • Injury to the heart

    Coronary artery fistula is a rare condition. Infants who are born with it sometimes also have other heart defects.


    Infants with this condition usually don’t have any symptoms.

    If symptoms do occur, they can include:

    • Chest discomfort or pain
    • Easy fatigue
    • Failure to thrive
    • Fast or irregular heartbeat (palpitations)
    • Shortness of breath (dyspnea)

    Exams and Tests

    This condition is usually not diagnosed until later in life. It is usually diagnosed during tests for other heart diseases. However, the doctor may hear a heart murmur that will lead to the diagnosis with further testing.

    Tests to determine the size of the fistula include:

    • An x-ray of the heart using dye to see how and where blood is flowing (angiogram)
    • Passing a thin, flexible tube into the heart to evaluate pressure and flow in the heart and surrounding arteries and veins(cardiac catheterization)
    • Ultrasound exam of the heart (echocardiogram)
    • Using magnets to create images of the heart (MRI)


    A small fistula that is not causing symptoms usually will not need treatment. Some small fistulas will close on their own. Often even if they do not close, they will never cause symptoms or need treatment.

    Infants with a larger fistula will need to have surgery to close the abnormal connection. The surgeon closes the site with a patch or stitches.

    Another treatment plugs up the opening without surgery, using a special wire (coil) that is inserted into the heart with a long, thin tube called a catheter. After the procedure, the fistula will usually close in children.

    Outlook (Prognosis)

    Children who have surgery usually do well, although a small percentage may need to have surgery again. Most people with this condition have a normal lifespan.

    Possible Complications

    • Abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia)
    • Heart attack
    • Heart failure
    • Opening (rupture) of the fistula
    • Poor oxygen to the heart

    Complications are more common in older patients.

    When to Contact a Medical Professional

    Coronary artery fistula is usually diagnosed during a doctor's exam. Call your health care provider if your infant has symptoms of this condition.


    There is no known way to prevent this condition.


    Park MK. Park: Pediatric Cardiology for Practitioners. 5th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Mosby; 2008.


    • Congenital heart defect ...


    • Coronary angiography


    • Coronary artery fistula


    • Congenital heart defect ...


    • Coronary angiography


    • Coronary artery fistula


    A Closer Look

      Talking to your MD

        Self Care

          Tests for Coronary artery fistula

            Review Date: 2/7/2012

            Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine; and Michael A. Chen, MD, PhD, Assistant Professor of Medicine, Division of Cardiology, Harborview Medical Center, University of Washington Medical School, Seattle, Washington. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.

            The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.

            A.D.A.M. content is best viewed in IE9 or above, Fire Fox and chrome browser.

            Back  |  Top
            About Us
            Contact Us
            Locations & Directions
            Quality Reports
            Annual Reports
            Honors & Awards
            Community Health Needs

            Brain & Spine
            Sleep Medicine
            Urgent Care
            Women's Services
            All Services
            Patients & Visitors
            Locations & Directions
            Find a Physician
            Tour St. Luke's
            Patient & Visitor Information
            Contact Us
            Payment Options
            Financial Assistance
            Send a Card
            Mammogram Appointments
            Health Tools
            My Personal Health
            Spirit of Women
            Health Information & Tools
            Clinical Trials
            Employer Programs -
            Passport to Wellness

            Classes & Events
            Classes & Events
            Spirit of Women
            Donate & Volunteer
            Giving Opportunities
            Physicians & Employees
            For Physicians
            Remote Access
            Medical Residency Information
            Pharmacy Residency Information
            Physician CPOE Training
            St. Luke's Hospital - 232 South Woods Mill Road - Chesterfield, MO 63017 Main Number: 314-434-1500 Emergency Dept: 314-205-6990 Patient Billing: 888-924-9200
            Copyright © St. Luke's Hospital Website Terms and Conditions  |  Privacy Policy  |  Notice of Privacy Practices PDF  |  Patient Rights PDF Sitemap St. Luke's Mobile