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Definition

Ventricular septal defect (hole in the heart) is a congenital heart defect wherein a hole occurs in the wall that separates the heart’s lower chambers.

In normal development, the wall between the chambers closes before the fetus is born, so that by birth, oxygen-rich blood is kept from mixing with the oxygen-poor blood. When the hole does not close, it may cause higher pressure in the heart or reduced oxygen to the body.

In most children, the cause isn't known. It's a very common type of heart defect. Some children can have other heart defects along with VSD.

How Does It Affect The Heart?

Normally, the left side of the heart only pumps blood to the body, and the heart's right side only pumps blood to the lungs. In a child with VSD, blood can travel across the hole from the left pumping chamber (left ventricle) to the right pumping chamber (right ventricle) and out into the lung arteries. If the VSD is large, the extra blood being pumped into the lung arteries makes the heart and lungs work harder and the lungs can become congested.

Symptoms

Symptoms of Ventricular Septal Defect can be seen in a child over the first few days, weeks or even years. These symptoms include:

  • Poor appetite
  • Breathlessness
  • Easy tiring
  • Not gaining weight
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat

If you or your baby have any/some/all of the above symptoms, visit your doctor immediately.

If the opening is small, it won't cause symptoms because the heart and lungs don't have to work harder. The only abnormal finding is a loud murmur (noise heard with a stethoscope).

If the opening is large, the child may breathe faster and harder than normal. Infants may have trouble feeding and growing at a normal rate. Symptoms may not occur until several weeks after birth. High pressure may occur in the blood vessels in the lungs because more blood than normal is being pumped there. Over time this may cause permanent damage to the lung blood vessels.

Diagnosis

Ventricular septal defects often cause a heart murmur that can be heard using a stethoscope. If your doctor hears a heart murmur, he may prescribe the following tests:

  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiogram
  • Chest x-ray
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Pulse oximetry

Treatment

The main form of treatment for ventricular septal defect is surgery, varying for people from different age groups. Apart from this certain medications are also prescribed.

Surgical Procedures

  • Open heart surgery
  • Catheter procedure
  • Hybrid procedure (include both surgery and catheter based techniques)

Medication

  • Digoxin to increase the heart’s contractions
  • Beta blockers keep the heartbeat regular
  • Diuretics to decrease the amount of fluids in circulation
  • Preventive antibiotics

 

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