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Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

What is an atrial septal defect?

An atrial septal defect is a congenital heart disease which affects newborn babies. It is a hole in the wall inside the heart known as the atrial septum. This condition is the third most common type of heart irregularity found in newborns.

It affects the upper chambers and increases the blood amount flowing through the lungs. Small holes are never the cause of concern as they get repaired on their own. But, large and long-term holes can harm both the lungs and heart. In some cases, there might be a need for surgery to repair the atrial septal defect.

Types of an atrial septal defect

The types of atrial septal defects are:

  • Secundum: This is the most common type of ASD and occurs when the hole occurs in the middle part of the atrial septum.
  • Primum: The hole develops in the septum’s lower part in this type.
  • Sinus venous: It is a rare type and occurs in the wall’s upper part separating the heart chambers. This type is also linked to changes in the heart structure present at birth.
  • Coronary sinus: This type is also rare and occurs when a hole grows in the wall separating the left atrium from the coronary sinus.

Is atrial septal defect genetic?

Yes, an atrial septal defect can be genetic so if you have someone in the family who has had congenital heart disease, then consult a healthcare professional to determine the risks in future children.

Symptoms of an atrial septal defect

The atrial septum defects are mild and hard to notice in infants. Babies who have severe defects may have symptoms like:

  • Stoke
  • Fatigue
  • Regular infections

A heart murmur is the most common symptom in childhood and children with severe defects may experience symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Irregular heartbeat
  • Excessive fatigue when exercising


Causes of an atrial septal defect

It is not known yet what exactly causes an atrial septal defect. This is a structural condition that happens when the heart is growing while a baby is in the womb. There can be different reasons according to healthcare experts such as:

  • Using certain medications
  • Environmental factors
  • Lifestyle factors
  • Certain medical conditions
  • Genetics
  • Misuse of alcohol and smoke

Atrial septal defect complications

If an atrial septal defect is left untreated, it can cause serious complications like:

  • Early death
  • High blood pressure in the lung arteries or pulmonary hypertension
  • Arrhythmias
  • Right-sided heart failure
  • Heart stroke

Atrial septal defect diagnosis

Small atrial septal defects aren’t usually diagnosed even after a child is born and aren’t a cause of concern usually. The condition is diagnosed when a doctor listens to the heart with a stethoscope and suspects a murmur. When the doctor detects a murmur, here are some tests commonly ordered for atrial septal defect diagnosis:

  • Echocardiogram- Helps in viewing how well the blood is moving through the heart valves and heart.
  • Chest X-ray- Shows the heart and lungs condition
  • Electrocardiogram- Records the heart's electrical activity and detects arrhythmia
  • Magnetic resource imaging scan- Helps in viewing detailed heart images through magnetic fields and radio waves
  • Computed tomography scan (CT scan)- Creates comprehensive heart images and detects atrial septal defects including congenital heart defects

Atrial Septal Defect Treatment

Around half of the atrial septal defects get repaired on their own without any treatment. The other half needs treatment either with cardiac catheterization or open heart surgery.

  • Watchful waiting

Doctors usually suggest watchful waiting when an atrial septal defect is detected in a young child. Medications are prescribed to treat the symptoms during this period.

  • Cardiac catheterization

A cardiac catheterization procedure is recommended by doctors to treat heart anomalies without opening the chest. A thin and flexible tube is inserted through a blood vessel in the leg or neck during this surgery. Then, to plug the hole, the doctor threads the tube to the heart and deploys a closure device.

  • Open heart surgery

Open heart surgery is done early in childhood and is required when the hole is large. It is the only solution to fix the types like coronary sinus atrial defects and sinus venous.

Why should you choose BM Birla Heart Research Centre in Kolkata for atrial septal defect treatment?

BM Birla Heart Research Centre in Kolkata is the only cardiac healthcare service across the eastern region offering matchless patient care. We have been delivering the finest health treatment in the city to our patients and our smart technology is what makes us the best. If you are looking for an atrial septal defect treatment, then get in touch with our highly-skilled and experienced cardiologists. They will ensure a proper diagnosis of the problem and recommend the treatment that’s best for you.


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