A ventricular septal defect is a type of congenital heart defect. Congenital heart defects are heart problems a baby is born with. These heart problems are usually diagnosed at or before birth.
The heart is a muscular pump with four chambers. The two bottom chambers—the left ventricle and the right ventricle—are separated by a wall of tissue called a septum. A ventricular septal defect is a hole in this wall.
A very small hole may not cause problems. It may close on its own.
When the hole is large, some of the blood may flow through it from the left ventricle to the right ventricle. So the heart may pump too much blood to the lungs. Over time, this can damage the lungs and weaken the heart.
Your doctor may hear abnormal heart sounds, such as a heart murmur, when he or she examines your newborn.
Your doctor will order tests to find the cause of abnormal sounds or of symptoms. The most common test used to identify this defect is called an echocardiogram, or "echo" for short. It uses sound waves to make an image of your baby's heart.
Other tests, such as an EKG (electrocardiogram), chest X-ray, and checking the amount of oxygen in the blood, also help identify the problem.
A fetal ultrasound, which looks at the baby's heart, may find this defect before birth.
Many babies have no symptoms, especially if the hole is small. The hole may close on its own over time.
If the hole is larger and the heart has to work too hard, a baby may have symptoms, such as trouble breathing or fast breathing.
If the hole is large enough to cause symptoms, your doctor may suggest a treatment called catheterization to close the hole.
Your baby will be asleep during this treatment. The doctor puts a thin tube into a blood vessel in your child's groin. This tube is called a catheter. The doctor will move the catheter through the blood vessel to the heart. A dye can be put into the catheter. The doctor can take X-ray pictures of the dye as it moves through your child's heart and blood vessels.
The pictures show exactly where the hole is. Then the doctor moves special tools through the catheter to the heart. The doctor uses these tools to close the hole. Then the tools and the catheter are removed.
Some babies may need surgery to close the hole.
Your doctor will explain what symptoms to watch for at home. Regular checkups will help your doctor watch your baby for symptoms over time.
Your doctor will make sure that you have all the information you need to take care of your baby at home.
Many babies won't have any symptoms. They will only need regular checkups. But it is important to watch for symptoms that may mean there is a problem. These include:
Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse call line if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.
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Current as of: December 6, 2017
Adam Husney, MD - Family Medicine
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