Atrial Septal Defect

What is an atrial septal defect?

There are several types of atrial septal defects (ASDs), which are differentiated from one another by which structures of the heart are involved. These are congenital (from birth) defects that are often corrected in infancy, depending on symptoms and type.

The most common type, ostium secundum or patent foramen ovale (PFO) are often asymptomatic and may be diagnosed incidentally on echocardiography. If symptoms develop, they usually occur by 40 years of age and include fatigue, palpitations and syncope. If the lesion is large and goes untreated, complications such as pulmonary hypertension, heart failure and stroke (paradoxical embolism) may occur.

How is it treated?

Your cardiologist, often in conjunction with your heart surgeon, will determine if and what type of repair is necessary. An atrial septal defect can occasionally be treated by an occlusion device in the cath lab, or it may require surgical correction. If surgery is necessary, it requires open heart surgery and use of the heart–lung machine to repair the defect. It may be closed primarily with suture, if small, or may require a patch closure.