What is it?

An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall (septum) that separates the two atria of the heart. In the fetus, there are openings in this wall that close before birth. Atrial septal defect is a condition in which these openings have not closed properly and a hole remains. As a result, blood continues to flow between the two sides of the heart. In some cases, the atrial septal defect is small, asymptomatic and may even close on its own. In other cases, and especially if there is a significant shunt, the abnormal flow may put a significant strain on the heart over time, and cause the development of heart or lung disease. Therefore, it is important to diagnose and fix the atrial septal defect at a young age and thus prevent future problems.

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Additional names

This group contains additional names:
- Patent foramen ovale
- PFO

Signs & symptoms

In most cases, atrial septal defect at childhood is an asymptomatic condition that is usually discovered by chance (by detecting a cardiac murmur). In adulthood, around the age of 30-40, signs of heart or lung disease may appear. Possible symptoms are shortness of breath, edema in the legs or ankles, rapid or irregular heartbeat and intolerance to physical exertion.

Diagnosis

Diagnosis of atrial septal defect begins with a physical examination by a doctor. The suspicion is confirmed using an echocardiogram, a test that demonstrates the structure of the heart and the blood flow in it. Other tests that may be needed are a chest x-ray and an ECG (a test that measures the electrical activity of the heart).

Treatment

Small and asymptomatic atrial septal defect may close on its own and does not necessarily require treatment. atrial septal defect that remains open beyond the age of two or three years needs to be repaired as there is a concern that it will cause symptoms at an older age. Closing the atrial septal defect is done by catheterization (using a tube that is inserted into a blood vessel up to the heart) or by open heart surgery.

☝️ This is not a substitute for professional medical advice. Please consult with your physician before making any medical decision.

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