Ventricular Septal Defect

What is a Ventricular Septal Defect?

A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a hole that is found within the wall that separates the two lower chambers in the heart.

This is a heart defect that is present at birth, and because of this problem, oxygen-rich blood is pumped back into the lungs rather than to the rest of the body. This forces the heart to work much harder, and it also increases the pressure within the heart.

What are the Symptoms of a Ventricular Septal Defect?

Serious heart defects will cause symptoms that become apparent within the first few days, weeks, or months of life. These can include symptoms like easily getting tired, breathing quickly or experiencing breathlessness, and exhibiting poor eating habits and a failure to thrive.

Signs of ventricular septal defect might not always be apparent at birth. In fact, if the hole is small, signs might not develop until years later, if they develop at all.

The symptoms that are associated with this defect will depend upon the size of the hole, as well as other heart problems that may be present.

A doctor might diagnose VSD when he or she hears a heart murmur while examining a child during a checkup, but some patients with VSD may not be diagnosed until adulthood.

Ventricular Septal Defects Causes

Malformed hearts are known to cause ventricular septal defects, but the root cause of what created the malformation is still unknown to researchers. It is known that the birth defect forms while the baby is still developing in the womb, creating one or several holes near the infant’s septum. Ventricular septal defects occur in 25% of infants born with birth defects and are more common in infants born prematurely.

As a fetus develops, the right and left ventricles of the heart start out as one mass, but further development causes a wall to form between them. In some cases, the wall doesn’t fully form. When this occurs, holes may form in the wall and this is known as a ventricular septal defect.

Like most heart defects, it’s still unknown what factors directly cause the development of ventricular septal defects, but researchers believe there may be some inefficiency in the process that makes some fetuses more susceptible to the condition.

Heart attacks have also been known to cause the defect, which suggests taking heart health seriously will help avoid developing ventricular septal defects.

How is a Ventricular Septal Defect Treated?

While a ventricular septal defect that is small might not cause any problems and might even close on its own, a larger VSD would require surgery in order to repair it and prevent complications.

Medications can also be prescribed to support a patient with VSD. For example, drugs like Lanoxin can be used to boost the power of the heart’s contractions, while Lasix can be used to reduce the fluid that’s in the lungs or in circulation. Other medications can work on keeping the heartbeat regular as well.

Ventricular Septal Defect Prevention

As it is usually present at birth, there’s little one can do to prevent the condition. Experts recommend that mothers can reduce the risk of their child developing ventricular septal defects by eliminating hazardous lifestyles. It’s suggested that drinking alcohol during pregnancy or taking anti-seizure medicines, such as depakote and dilantin, can increase the risk of ventricular septal defects occurring.

While ways to prevent the condition may be limited, following a physician’s advice in carrying a healthy pregnancy to term may help a fetus develop more fully.

In many cases, the condition may repair itself after birth, though this depends on the size of the hole. Likewise, it may also depend on the number of holes in the septum.