Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a birth defect commonly referred to as a hole in the heart defect because it is s a hole in the wall that separates the upper chambers of the heart. It allows blood to flow between the chambers of the heart. Untreated ASD can damage the heart and lungs over time, causing life-threatening health conditions in adulthood. People with untreated ASD typically begin experiencing symptoms around age 30, although symptoms can appear in babies in very severe cases.
Atrial Septal Defect Treatment
If the hole is very small, it may close on its own. If it has not closed by the time the child reaches three years of age, surgery is necessary to correct the defect and prevent long-term damage. In most cases a transcatheter device can be used to close the hole, but in some cases open heart surgery is required.
Atrial Septal Defect Complications
Adults with untreated ASD may have a shortened life span and experience serious or life-threatening health problems including:
- Arrhythmias – heart rhythm abnormalities
- Pulmonary hypertension – increased blood pressure in the lungs
- Right-sided heart failure
- Increased risk of stroke
- Eisenmenger syndrome – permanent lung damage
Detecting Atrial Septal Defect
In babies with ASD there are usually no noticeable symptoms. However, the defect causes the heart to make abnormal sounds, called a heart murmur, which can be heard through a stethoscope in routine examinations.
A baby with a very large hole in the heart may display symptoms such as:
- Shortness of breath
- Poor growth
- Being easily fatigued