Stethoscope on the Cardiogram

Septal Defect Closure

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An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall (septum) between the two upper chambers of the heart (atria). The condition is present at birth (congenital).

Small defects might be found by chance and never cause a problem. Some small atrial septal defects close during infancy or early childhood.

The hole increases the amount of blood that flows through the lungs. A large, long-standing atrial septal defect can damage the heart and lungs. Surgery or device closure might be necessary to repair atrial septal defects to prevent complications.

Atrial septal defect signs and symptoms can include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially when exercising

  • Fatigue

  • Swelling of legs, feet or abdomen

  • Heart palpitations or skipped beats

  • Stroke

  • Heart murmur, a whooshing sound that can be heard through a stethoscope

When to see a doctor

Contact the doctor if patient or child has:

  • Shortness of breath

  • Easy tiring, especially after activity

  • Swelling of legs, feet or abdomen

  • Heart palpitations or skipped beats

Prevention

In most cases, atrial septal defects can't be prevented. If you're planning to become pregnant, schedule a visit with your health care provider. This visit should include:

  • Getting tested for immunity to rubella. If the patient is not immune, ask the doctor about getting vaccinated.

  • Going over current health conditions and medications. The patient will need to monitor certain health problems during pregnancy. The doctor might also recommend adjusting or stopping certain medications before the patient become pregnant.

  • Reviewing the family medical history. If the patient have a family history of heart defects or other genetic disorders, consider talking with a genetic counselor to determine what the risk might be.