Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is a term used to describe a group of closely related rare heart defects that are present at birth (congenital). The normal heart has four chambers. The two upper chambers, known as atria, are separated from each other by a fibrous partition known as the atrial septum. The two lower chambers are known as ventricles and are separated from each other by the ventricular septum. Valves connect the atria (left and right) to their respective ventricles. The valves allow for blood to be pumped through the chambers. Blood travels from the right ventricle through the pulmonary artery to the lungs where it receives oxygen. The blood returns to the heart through pulmonary veins and enters the left ventricle. The left ventricle sends the now oxygen-filled blood into the main artery of the body (aorta). The aorta sends the blood throughout the body.
Hypoplastic left heart syndrome is characterized by the underdevelopment (hypoplasia) of the chambers on the left side of the heart (i.e., left atrium and ventricle). In addition, the mitral valve, which connects these chambers to each other, is usually abnormally narrow (stenosis) or closed (atresia) and the aortic valve, which connects the heart to the major vessels that lead from the lungs (ascending aorta), may also be narrow or closed. Infants with hypoplastic left heart syndrome also have an abnormally narrow ascending aorta.