What are cyanotic spells (tet spells)?

What are cyanotic spells (tet spells)?

Cyanosis means bluish discoloration of skin, lips, tongue and nail beds. Cyanotic spells are episodes of worsening of cyanosis, in infants with birth defects of the heart (‘blue babies’). Cyanotic spells usually occurs after the baby cries of exerts in some other form. During cyanotic spells, there is rapid breathing with increase in intensity of the bluish colour. If the spell is prolonged, the baby may develop a fit. A fit is also known as seizure and means epilepsy like rapid movements of hands and feet.

Emergency first aid for cyanotic spells

Emergency first aid is to keep the baby in the knee chest position – keeping the baby in such a way that knees and front of the chest both touch the bed. Placing in knee chest position cuts off the blood returning from the legs and increases the resistance to pumping out of blood from the heart. Both of these are helpful in allowing more blood reaching the lung for oxygenation. Finally, this leads to improvement in the oxygen level of blood reaching the body and decrease in bluish colour.

Why are cyanotic spells called tet spells?

It is called tet spell because it is common in a disease called Tetralogy of Fallot.  Tetralogy of Fallot is a combination of four birth defects of the heart. These four defects are:

  1. Defect in the wall between two lower chambers of the heart, called as ventricular septal defect
  2. Obstruction to flow of blood from right ventricle (lower right chamber of the heart) to the lungs
  3. Thickening of the wall of right ventricle
  4. Overriding of aorta (large blood vessel carrying oxygenated blood to the whole of the body) over the ventricular septal defect