An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall between the left and right upper chambers of the heart. Blood can flow through this hole. This will make it hard for the heart to work as it should. It can also lead to a backup of fluids in the lungs.
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ASD happens as the baby grows in the uterus. It is not always known why the wall does not grow as it should. Some things that may play a role are:
The chances of ASD are higher if the mother:
Small holes may not cause problems right away. They may cause problems when the child is more active in later life. Problems may be:
For older children and adults:
For babies (rare):
The doctor will ask about your symptoms and health history. A physical exam may be done. The doctor may hear a murmur while listening to the heart.
The doctor may suspect ASD based on symptoms. An echocardiogram can confirm the diagnosis.
ASD can make the right side of the heart larger. This can lead to other health issues. To look for changes to the heart your doctor may also do these tests:
Not all ASD will make the heart and lungs work harder. ASD in infants may close on their own by 3 to 5 years of age. These may not need treatment. The heart will be monitored for any changes.
People with ASD who have heart changes may need to limit certain activity. Those with smaller holes or no effects on the heart can often do all activities.
Holes that are causing stress to the heart and lungs will need treatment. The hole will be sealed with surgery or a device. Options are:
There are no known methods to prevent this health problem.
American Heart Association
Family Doctor—American Association of Family Physicians
Canadian Adult Congenital Heart Network
Heart and Stroke Foundation
Atrial septal defect (ASD). Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: http://kidshealth.org/en/parents/asd.html. Accessed August 27, 2021.
Atrial septal defect (ASD). American Heart Association website. Available at: http://www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/CongenitalHeartDefects/AboutCongenitalHeartDefects/Atrial-Septal-Defect-ASD_UCM_307021_Article.jsp. Accessed August 27, 2021.
Atrial septal defects. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: https://www.dynamed.com/condition/atrial-septal-defects. Accessed August 27, 2021.
Last reviewed July 2021 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kuenn, MD Last Updated: 8/27/2021