A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a hole between the lower 2 chambers of the heart.
The heart has 4 sections, or chambers. The upper chambers are called atria, and the lower chambers are called ventricles. The wall between the 2 ventricles is called the ventricular septum.
Normally, blood flows from the right atrium into the right ventricle, and the right ventricle pumps it to the lungs. When there is a hole in the ventricular septum, oxygen-rich blood from the left ventricle flows into the right ventricle. Then it is pumped back to the lungs, even though this blood does not need oxygen. This makes the heart and lungs work harder.
A VSD is found most often in babies. It happens before birth and is the most common birth defect of the heart. Often it is the only defect, but sometimes there are other heart defects as well. Most of the time the cause of the birth defect is not known. Heart defects may be inherited, which means that they are passed from parents to children through their genes. Genes are inside each cell of your body. They contain the information that tells your body how to develop and work.
Rarely, an injury to the heart or a heart attack may cause a VSD.
If the defect is mild, there may be no symptoms. It may be found only when being tested for something else. Many defects cause a whooshing sound, called a murmur, as blood moves through the heart. Healthcare providers can hear the murmur with a stethoscope.
Large defects may cause symptoms. Even if the defect is large, a baby often does not have symptoms until several weeks after birth. Symptoms may include:
Your healthcare provider will ask about your child’s symptoms and medical history and examine your child.
Tests may include:
Your child may have other tests to check for possible causes of the symptoms.
Your healthcare provider will advise treatment based on the symptoms and size of the defect.
A small defect may never cause any symptoms or problems. The smaller the defect, the greater the chance that it will close on its own, usually in the first years of a child’s life. People with a small VSD may lead normal lives.
Medium and large ventricular septal defects may need to be fixed with surgery or heart catheterization.
Two types of surgery may be done to close the defect:
If your baby has symptoms, medicines will be given to help the heart pump better until your child has surgery.
Follow your child’s healthcare provider's instructions. Ask your provider:
Make sure you know when your child should come back for a checkup. Keep all appointments for provider visits or tests.