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Atrial Septal Defect(ASD; “Hole” in the Heart)

Pronounced: AY-tree-uhl SEP-tull DEE-fect

Definition

The atria are the the upper chambers of the heart. An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall between the left and right chambers of the atria. It is present at birth.

Blood passes from the left atrium to the right atrium in babies born with ASD. This eventually can cause problems in the lungs.

Heart Chambers and Valves

heart anatomy

Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

Causes

ASD is occurs during fetal development. It is present at birth. Some cases may be caused by a genetic defect or abnormality inherited from a parent. Others can be caused by illnesses suffered by the mother during pregnancy.

Most of the time, the cause is unknown.

Risk Factors

Factors that increase the risk of having a child with an atrial septal defect include:

  • Smoking by the mother during pregnancy
  • Down syndrome
Symptoms

Symptoms of atrial septal defect include:

  • Tiring easily during activity
  • Sweating
  • Rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
  • Ongoing respiratory infections
  • Poor growth
  • Irregular, rapid beating of the heart
  • Poor appetite

People with minor-to-moderate defects may show no symptoms. They may not begin to show symptoms until later in life.

Diagnosis

Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done. A murmur may be heard when listening to the chest with a stethoscope.

Your doctor may need pictures of your heart. This can be done with:

Your doctor may need to check the health of your arteries. This can be done with coronary angiography .

Treatment

Small defects that produce few or no symptoms may not require treatment. Many defects may close on their own without treatment. Talk with your child's doctor about the best treatment plan. Treatment options include:

Surgery

Surgery may be needed in patients with large defects if they cause significant symptoms.

A new procedure may also be performed. It closes the opening without surgery. A heart catheter is inserted in the inner part of the thigh. A closure device is inserted through this catheter.

Antibiotics

If your condition is repaired through surgery, you may need to take an antibiotic before you have dental procedures.

Prevention

The condition is a congenital defect with unknown causes. There are no preventive measures. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications.

RESOURCES:

American Association of Family Physicians
http://familydoctor.org

American Heart Association
http://www.heart.org

CANADIAN RESOURCES:

Canadian Adult Congenital Heart Network
http://www.cachnet.org

Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation
http://www.heartandstroke.com

References:

Antibiotic prophylaxis. American Dental Association's MouthHealthy.org website. Available at: http://www.mouthhealthy.org/en/az-topics/p/Premedication-or-Antibiotics.aspx . Accessed July 11, 2013.

Atrial septal defect. KidsHealth.org website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/asd.html . Updated May 2013. Accessed July 11, 2013.

Patent foramen ovale and other atrial septal defects. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated April 29, 2013. Accessed July 11, 2013.



Last reviewed July 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO; Michael Woods, MD

Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.

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