Atrial Septal Defects

Trust that you can always depend upon DMC Medical Group for detailed, patient-centered care. Our skilled cardiologists diagnose and treat atrial septal defects. We invite you to learn more about this condition and to contact us to schedule an appointment.

Understanding Atrial Septal Defects

An atrial septal defect, or ASD, is a birth defect in which a hole is present in the septum – the wall that divides the upper chambers of the heart, the atria. This causes the heart to work less efficiently to fulfill its task of supplying blood throughout the body. Oxygen-rich blood combines with oxygen-poor blood and an increased amount of blood flows through the lungs.

The size of the hole varies from person to person. In some cases, smaller holes may close up on their own in infancy or early childhood, but it is necessary to continue monitoring the situation. When ASD is large and persists over time, it can cause profound damage to the heart and lungs.

Diagnosing ASD

During the first 8 weeks of pregnancy the heart of the fetus develops. Instead of forming a solid partition that divides all of the chambers of the heart, an opening is left in the atrial septum. There is no distinct cause for this relatively rare congenital heart defect. It is most likely due to a gene defect, chromosome abnormality, or environmental exposure.

It is possible to diagnose ASD during pregnancy with specific screening tests. Sometimes images from an ultrasound can detect the opening. After a baby is born, there are certain symptoms that can occur which might result in an ASD diagnosis including:

  • Frequent Lung Infections
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Fatigue when Feeding
  • Heart Murmur
  • Stroke

It is possible for ASD not to be diagnosed until well into adulthood. In this case it is usually discovered after hearing a murmur, or whooshing sound, while listening to the heart during a routine checkup. To confirm the diagnosis, tests such as an echocardiogram, chest X-ray, and MRI, will be performed.

Treating ASD

Your cardiac specialists and surgeons will evaluate your individual situation and make recommendations based on your specific diagnosis and preferences. Treatment is highly dependent on:

  • The Size of the Hole
  • The Age of Diagnosis
  • Severity of Symptoms
  • Presence of Other Conditions

Infants and children with ASD will be monitored with regular checkups to see if the hole closes on its own. Children with medium to large occurrences of ASD may be recommended to undergo surgery to repair the hole and prevent complications later in life. Medications can help to mitigate symptoms, but surgery is likely to be recommended for adults. There are minimally invasive procedures available; however, open heart surgery may be required depending on the size and location.

Contact Our Office

Your health should always be a priority. In addition to diagnosing and treating ASD, your medical team will establish a detailed follow-up care plan. Do not hesitate to reach out to us to schedule an appointment.