223517 Health Library | Health and Wellness | Wellmont Health System
  • Atrial Septal Defect

    (ASD; “Hole” in the Heart)


    The atria are the the upper chambers of the heart. An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall between the left and right chambers of the atria. It is present at birth.
    Blood passes from the left atrium to the right atrium in babies born with ASD. This eventually can cause problems in the lungs.
    ASD occurs in about four out of every 100,000 babies. Those with minor-to-moderate defects may not suffer any complications or symptoms. Very small ASDs close on their own about 90% of the time. Those with more severe defects may have disabilities later in life.
    Heart Chambers and Valves
    heart anatomy
    Copyright © Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.


    ASD is a congenital defect. This means that it occurs during fetal development. It is present at birth. Some cases may be caused by a genetic defect or abnormality inherited from a parent. Others can be caused by illnesses suffered by the mother during pregnancy.
    Most of the time, the cause is unknown.

    Risk Factors

    There are no known risk factors for this condition because the cause is largely unknown.


    Symptoms include:
    • Tiring easily during activity
    • Sweating
    • Rapid breathing, difficulty breathing, or shortness of breath
    • Ongoing respiratory infections
    • Poor growth
    • Irregular, rapid beating of the heart
    • Poor appetite
    People with minor-to-moderate defects may show no symptoms. They may not begin to show symptoms until later in life.


    Your doctor will ask about your symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.


    Small defects that produce few or no symptoms may not require treatment. Many defects may close on their own without treatment. Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you. Treatment options include:


    Surgery may be needed in patients with large defects if they cause significant symptoms.
    A new procedure may also be performed. It closes the opening without surgery. A heart catheter is inserted in the inner part of the thigh. A closure device is inserted through this catheter.


    Antibiotics may be prescribed for six months after some surgeries. You will need to take an antibiotic before you have dental work or other procedures. In most cases, patients do not need to take antibiotics before procedures. There are some exceptions.


    The condition is a congenital defect with unknown causes. There are no preventive measures. Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent complications


    American Heart Association http://www.heart.org/

    National Heart, Lung, and Blood Diseases Institute http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/index.html


    Canadian Cardiovascular Society http://www.ccs.ca

    Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada http://www.heartandstroke.com/


    Antibiotic prophylaxis. American Dental Association website. Available at: http://www.ada.org/2157.aspx . Accessed November 10, 2012.

    Atrial septal defects (ASD). EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.ebscohost.com/dynamed . Updated June 6, 2012. Accessed November 10, 2012.

    Atrial septal defect. KidsHealth.org website. Available at: http://www.kidshealth.org/parent/medical/heart/asd.html . Updated August 2010. Accessed November 10, 2012.

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