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Understanding the Impact of A Hole In The Heart - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Home > Blogs > Understanding the Impact of A Hole In The Heart - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Understanding the Impact of A Hole In The Heart - Symptoms, Causes & Treatment

Cardiology | by Dr. Dhiman Kahali | Published on 30/11/2023


Is your child suffering from symptoms like heart murmur or shortness of breath? If so, then it might suggest conditions like a hole in the heart also known as a septal defect. It is fairly a common condition. It is essential to understand that it might or may not cause symptoms or need treatment. Most holes in the heart go overlooked as a small-sized hole closes on its own. 

If you are apprehensive about the condition, consulting a doctor is vital to properly evaluate and diagnose the problem. 

You can get in touch with a cardiologist in Kolkata at the BM Birla Heart Research Centre in Kolkata. You will find highly skilled and talented cardiologists and other healthcare professionals here. 

In this blog, we will include a comprehensive discussion about holes in the heart involving its symptoms, causes, and treatment options.

Kindly note that it is research-based information and we do not in any way encourage overlooking the doctor’s consultation. 

What is a hole in the heart? 

A hole in the heart, also known as ventricular septal defect is a condition that is present at birth. This is also termed a congenital heart defect. It occurs between the heart’s lower chambers i.e. right and left ventricles. It permits the blood that is rich in oxygen to keep moving back into the lungs rather than pumping it throughout the body. 

A hole in the heart entirely alters the way blood flows through the lungs and the heart. The blood begins pumping back to the lungs rather than out of the body. Rich oxygen blood gets mixed with poor blood. These shifts lead to increasing the blood pressure in the lungs and the heart has to work harder to pump blood. 

A small hole in the heart doesn't usually cause serious issues and closes on its own. However, for babies with a large hole in the heart, surgery is the only approach to avert complications. 

What are hole-in-the-heart symptoms? 

Hole in the heart symptoms usually develop in the initial weeks, days, or months of a baby’s life, if present at birth. Symptoms often depend on the hole size and if there are any heart issues. Small hole doesn’t cause any symptoms, but medium or large hole cause the following symptoms: 

  • Bad eating habits 
  • Poor physical growth 
  • Rapid breathing or shortness of breath 
  • Fatigue 
  • Rushing sound while listening to the heart or a heart murmur 

A hole in the heart symptoms in adults is also similar: 

  • Breath shortness during exercise 
  • A rushing sound while listening to the heart or a heart murmur 
  • Fatigue or weakness 
  • Irregular heartbeat

What are the causes of holes in the heart? 

The exact cause of a hole in the heart is not known but experts have identified some factors contributing to the development of this congenital heart defect. Here are these factors: 

  • Genetic factors can lead to the development of a hole in the heart. 
  • Maternal factors involving exposures during pregnancy like maternal diseases or medicines can affect fetal growth and cause heart defects. 
  • Environmental factors involve toxins and being exposed to some environmental elements during pregnancy enhances the risk of a hole in the heart. 
  • Chromosome anomalies involving conditions such as Down syndrome are linked to an enhanced risk of ventricular septal defect. 
  • Unknown causes are also there which are yet to be identified by healthcare experts. 

How is a heart hole diagnosed? 

The condition known as a hole in the heart is typically identified in children at the initial stage, however, future diagnosis is challenging. A stethoscope can be used by a physician to listen for the heart murmur, often known as the heart sound. The constricted valve's choppy blood flow is the cause of the sound.

 The following tests have been prescribed by medical professionals:

  •  Electrocardiogram: During this examination, the physician may record the electrical activity of the heart. It shows the thickening of the cardiac muscle and aids in the identification of heartbeats.
  •  Echocardiogram: This test creates images of the heart using sound waves. It helps to show how the heart pumps blood and beats. It also measures how well the heart is functioning. 
  • Cardiac catheterization: This procedure measures the pressure differential between the lung artery and the right low chamber of the heart using a tiny tube called a catheter to help assess a hole in the heart. 
  •  Other tests- To provide the patient with the best possible treatment option, additional imaging tests such as CT and MRI scans are required to confirm the diagnosis of a hole in the heart.  
  • Chest X-ray- It helps in determining the heart and lung condition and detects if the heart is enlarged or if there is extra fluid in the lungs.
  • Pulse oximetry- It assists in recording the oxygen amount in the blood indicating a sign of a heart or lung issue.

What are the options for hole-in-the-heart treatment? 

The treatment for a hole in the heart varies depending on factors like defect location, size, the patient’s age, and overall well-being. Doctors recommend consulting a cardiologist to identify the right course of action. However, here is the most common treatment usually involved in treating a heart hole: 

  • Observation- It involves observing the small defects. If a hole in the heart is of small size, then it closes on its own with regular monitoring. 
  • Medications- In certain cases, medicines are prescribed for the management of the symptoms and to avert the risk of complications. 
  • Surgical procedure- Open-heart surgery is performed in cases when the hole is moderate or large. It helps in treating complex defects, entailing the hole closure directly. 
  • Catheter-based procedure- It involves minimally invasive procedures like transcatheter closure. This involves the insertion of a thin tube named a catheter through the blood vessels so that reaching the heart is smooth and the hole is closed. 


A hole in the heart or ventricular septal defect is a condition that needs proper medical intervention and personalized treatment. While small holes in the heart close on their own, some moderate to large holes require surgical repair or catheter-based procedures. Consulting a cardiologist on time is vital for a comprehensive evaluation and determining the right treatment for the patient depending on their symptoms. With continuous advancement in the medical field, it ensures that people suffering from heart defects receive the most efficient care. 



What causes a hole in the heart in adults?

One of the most common causes of a hole in the heart in adults is damage to the heart muscle leading to a serious heart attack.

Can you live with a hole in your heart?

People with a small-sized hole in the heart can live up to 80 years or longer, while a moderate to large-sized hole might require surgical repair.

Is a heart murmur hereditary?

It is not proven yet whether a heart murmur is hereditary or not, but a genetic link is identified.