The heart has 4 compartments (chambers), 2 on the right and 2 on the left. The chambers relax to fill with blood, and then contract to pump the blood out.
Blood goes to your lungs to pick up oxygen and get rid of carbon dioxide.
A septum is a wall between 2 chambers.
Atrial septal defects (ASD) are holes between the upper chambers of the heart (the atria).
Ventricular septal defects (VSD) are holes between the lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles).
ASD and VSD are among the most common heart birth defects
Sometimes these defects don’t cause any symptoms, though a large hole can be a serious problem
Doctors diagnose ASD and VSD using echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart)
Small ASDs and VSDs sometimes close up on their own—if this happens, it's usually by the time a child is 3 years old
To fix these defects, doctors may do surgery
Sometimes, children with an ASD or VSD also have other heart defects.
Septal Defect: A Hole in the Heart's Wall
Symptoms depend a lot on how big the hole is and exactly where it's located.
An ASD usually doesn’t cause symptoms, though sometimes a child grows more slowly than expected. If your child has a large ASD that isn't treated, the child may have health problems in adulthood such as:
A VSD that's small may not cause any symptoms. But larger VSDs usually start causing problems when a baby is 4 to 6 weeks old. Symptoms include:
These are signs of heart failure.
If a VSD isn't treated, it can cause:
Doctors suspect ASD or VSD if they hear certain types of heart murmurs (an unusual sound made by abnormal blood flow through the heart). Doctors confirm the diagnosis by:
Echocardiography (ultrasound of the heart)
They'll also do other tests such as:
ECG (a painless test that measures the heart’s electrical currents and records them on a piece of paper)
Sometimes, chest x-rays
Small ASDs and VSDs often close up on their own before the child turns 3 years old. Treatment depends on the size of the hole and your child’s symptoms.
If an ASD hasn't closed on its own by the time a child is 2 or 3, doctors may:
A small VSD doesn't usually need treatment. If treatment is needed, doctors may:
Before surgery, doctors usually give your child heart medicines to help with symptoms. The medicines may also allow time for the hole to close on its own.