Main AHCA Website

AHCA’s main website for information on Medicaid, Health Quality Assurance and the Florida Center for Health Information and Transparency.

Go >

Florida Health Information Network

This website provides information and resources relating to AHCA’s initiatives for Health Information Technology and Health Information Exchange.

Go >

Provides health education and information to compare and locate health care providers in Florida to make well-informed health care decisions.

Go >
AHCA Network of Websites

Health Education

Health Encyclopedia

Search the Health 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 often do not 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 in children, the fistula will usually close.

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. Pediatric Cardiology for Practitioners. 5th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Mosby; 2008.

Review Date:2/17/2014
Reviewed By:Kurt R. Schumacher, MD, Pediatric Cardiology, University of Michigan Congenital Heart Center, Ann Arbor, MI. Review provided by VeriMed Healthcare Network. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Isla Ogilvie, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.

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. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. 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.

The Agency for Health Care Administration (Agency) and this website do not claim the information on, or referred to by, this site is error free. This site may include links to websites of other government agencies or private groups. Our Agency and this website do not control such sites and are not responsible for their content. Reference to or links to any other group, product, service, or information does not mean our Agency or this website approves of that group, product, service, or information.

Additionally, while health information provided through this website may be a valuable resource for the public, it is not designed to offer medical advice. Talk with your doctor about medical care questions you may have.

Outcome Data

No data available for this condition/procedure.

Health Encyclopedia

More Features

We Appreciate Your Feedback
1. Did you find this information useful?

2. Would you recommend this website to family and friends?