An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall and muscle between the two chambers (atria) in the heart. Pressure in the left side of the heart is much higher than the right, meaning an ASD may allow blood from the left atrium to pass to the right atrium. What is a atrial septal defect diagnosis? First, let's better understand ASDs.
Some ASDs are very small and do not cause problems or require treatment. Larger ASDs can, in some cases, result in the right side of the heart being overloaded with blood. If left untreated, over a period of many years it can eventually lead to permanent damage to the heart and sometimes to the lungs.
The cause of ASD is not always clear but most cases are due to anomalies in heart formation during the early stages of pregnancy, although genetics and environmental factors can also contribute.
It is rare that any heart problems will have been caused directly by something done by the mother or environment during pregnancy.
Most children show either mild or no symptoms at all, however there are some signs.
ASD can be diagnosed by conducting a painless ultrasound scan on the heart called an echocardiogram.
The aim of both these surgeries is to close the ASD which stops blood passing from left to right atrium. The type of treatment will depend on the size of the ASD and its exact position.
Doctors insert a tube into a patient’s food pipe through the mouth to do a scan called a transesophageal echocardiogram to see the heart and ASD clearly. Another long tube known as a catheter is inserted into a vein in the leg and guided toward the heart.
The ASD is closed using a special device, which is folded up and pushed through the catheter to the heart. Once it is in the correct position, the device is unfolded so that the ASD hole is closed. The catheter will then be removed.
The device will stay inside the patient’s heart and become covered over by their own tissue during the healing process. Aspirin is prescribed after surgery to reduce the risk of blood clots forming.
Keyhole treatment to repair an ASD is usually very successful and carries a very low risk of fatality. Most children will not experience any major complications.
Sometimes open-heart surgery is required to close the ASD. Surgeons will make a cut in the patient’s breastbone to get access to the heart. Their heart will be stopped and a ‘heart-lung machine’ will be used to function as the heart and lungs.
The surgeon will sew the ASD closed, start the heart beating again and the heart-lung machine will be turned off. The patient’s chest will then be sewn closed.
Open-heart surgery to repair ASD is usually very successful and the fatality risks are very low.
Most children will remain completely well and lead a normal, active life after treatment. There is no need to restrict physical activity and no special precautions are necessary.
Doctors will advise on whether further check-ups are necessary on a case by case basis.