Atrial Septal Defect

What is an Atrial Septal Defect?

An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital condition in which a hole is present between the 2 top chambers (atria) of the heart. ASDs may be present in various locations in the internal wall (septum) between the atria of the heart.

Consequences of Atrial Septal Defects

Small atrial septal defects may not cause any problems and may close on their own. Large or persistent atrial septal defects result in excess blood flow to the lungs and stretching/enlargement of the right side of the heart This can lead to increased pressure in the arteries of the lung as well as heart failure.

Symptoms of Atrial Septal Defects

An atrial septal defect is not usually associated with symptoms in childhood. After the age of 30, symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath, heart palpitations, abdominal or lower extremity swelling, stroke and frequent lung infections can occur. ASDs may be associated with abnormal connections of the veins from the lungs to the heart.

Diagnosis of Atrial Septal Defects

An atrial septal defect may be discovered incidentally by your child’s doctor who hears a murmur while listening to the heart or observes a defect on an ultrasound. To confirm the presence of an atrial septal defect, an echocardiogram, electrocardiogram, cardiac catheterisation, chest X-ray, CT or MRI may be performed.

Treatment of Atrial Septal Defect

Surgery to repair a persistent atrial septal defect is usually recommended during childhood to avoid future problems. Your doctor will close the hole with a patch or directly with sutures. If the lung veins are abnormally connected they are redirected or reconnected at the same operation.