Atrial septal defect
Alternative NamesAtrial septal defect
What is Atrial septal defect
Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital condition in which you have hole in the wall between the 2 upper chambers of your heart. Smaller atrial septal defects may close on their own during infancy or early childhood.
Large and long-standing atrial septal defects can lead to damage of your heart and lungs. An adult who has had an undetected atrial septal defect for decades may have a shortened life span from heart failure or high blood pressure in the lungs.
Signs and symptoms
If you have small to moderate sized defects, you may notice no symptoms or until middle age or later. Symptoms that may develop later are the followings:
- Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
- Frequent respiratory infections in children
- Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations) in adults
- Shortness of breath with activity
Atrial septal defect can cause such complications as:
- Arrhythmias, particularly atrial fibrillation
- Heart failure
- Pulmonary hypertension
It is not clear what causes atrial septal defect. For some reason, the atrial septum does not completely close as the heart forms in the fetus. The atrial septum is the wall that separates the upper chambers of the heart, called atria. The presence of the atrial septal defect results in the abnormal flow of blood from the left atrium into the right atrium.
It is impossible to prevent the defect, because the exact cause of it is still unknown. But you can prevent some of the complications with early detection.
The treatment for ASD is not necessary if you have few or no symptoms or if the defect is small. Surgical closure of the defect is used if the defect is large, the heart is swollen or symptoms occur.
A procedure has been developed to close the defect without surgery. The procedure involves placing an ASD closure device into the heart through tubes called catheters. The doctor makes a tiny surgical cut in the groin, then inserts the catheters into a blood vessel and up into the heart. The closure device is then placed across the ASD and the defect is closed. Not all people with atrial septal defects can have this procedure.
Prophylactic (preventive) antibiotics should be given before dental procedures to reduce the risk of developing infective endocarditis immediately after surgery for the ASD, but they are not required later on.