WebMD
Font Size

Atrial Septal Defect

An atrial septal defect is an opening in the wall that separates the upper chambers of the heart. It is one of the most common congenital heart defects, which are structural problems that develop before a baby is born or at birth.

When an atrial septal defect is present, some oxygen-rich blood that should have been pumped to the body flows from one side of the heart to the other. This blood is then pumped to the lungs. This creates extra work for one side of the heart.

If an atrial septal defect is large, heart failure may occur, although this is not common in children. Many children have no symptoms. So this defect may not be found until a child is older or becomes an adult.

A heart catheterization can typically be used to close the opening. The doctor will put a thin tube called a catheter into a blood vessel in your child's groin. The doctor will move the catheter through the blood vessel to the heart. Then the doctor will guide special tools through the catheter to fix the heart problem. The doctor will insert a small closure device into the heart. This prevents blood from flowing between chambers.

ByHealthwise Staff
Primary Medical ReviewerJohn Pope, MD - Pediatrics
Specialist Medical ReviewerLarry A. Latson, MD - Pediatric Cardiology
Last RevisedOctober 11, 2011

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: October 11, 2011
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.