• Cardiovascular

    Kimmel announcement shines light on heart condition

Tetralogy of Fallot illustration featuring a stethoscope, surgical glove and scalpel and a heart

When Jimmy Kimmel revealed his son Billy was born with a heart problem, it was the first time many of his viewers had heard the complicated medical terms used to describe it.

"Billy was born with a heart disease, something called tetralogy of Fallot with pulmonary atresia," Kimmel said on his late-night talk show. "Basically, the pulmonary valve was completely blocked, and he has a hole in the wall between the left and right sides of his heart."

In pulmonary atresia, the valve that lets blood out of the heart to go to the  lungs doesn't form correctly. Tetralogy of Fallot is a rare condition caused by a combination of four heart defects that are present at birth. These defects affect the structure of the heart and cause oxygen-poor blood to flow out of the heart and to the rest of the body.

Kimmel said his son had successful surgery on April 24. He said additional procedures will be necessary in the future to repair the condition fully.

With early diagnosis followed by appropriate surgical treatment, most patients who have the conditions live relatively normal lives, though they may need regular medical care and might have restrictions on exercise.

For an in-depth explanation of treatment of tetralogy of Fallot, watch this video with Dr. Joseph Dearani, chair of the Cardiac Surgery Department at Mayo Clinic's Rochester, Minnesota, campus.