Hole in the Heart: Causes, Signs, Symptoms and Treatment

Hole in the Heart: Causes, Signs, Symptoms and Treatment
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Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) or Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) is generally termed as hole in the heart, a type of congenital heart defect.

An Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) occurs when there is a hole in the walls (septum) between the two upper chambers of the heart.

Small defects in the atrial walls do not cause a problem as such and get closed on their own during infancy or early childhood.

A large hole in the atrial wall on the other hand, may have to be treated surgically because in this case, the hole increases the amount of blood that flows through the lungs. Hence, the defect needs to be repaired to prevent further complications.

A Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) occurs in the walls (septum) that separates the lower chambers of the heart. Due to this defect, the heart has to work harder as the oxygenated blood is pumped back to the lungs instead of pumping it to the body. It has been observed that small ventricular septal defects cause no problems and are generally close by itself.  However, the medium or larger VSDs have to be repaired surgically to prevent future health-related complications.

Read Also: Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) in Children

Signs and symptoms of Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

Babies born with atrial septal defects show no signs or symptoms. These signs and symptoms only begin to appear in adulthood and may include:

  • Fatigue
  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activities
  • Swelling of legs, feet or abdomen
  • Heart palpitations or skipped beats
  • Stroke
  • Heart murmur (abnormal heart sound)

Doctors may observe the signs and symptoms of some serious ventricular septal defects during the first few days, weeks or months of a child’s life. These signs and symptoms may include:

  • Poor eating
  • Failure to flourish
  • Breathlessness
  • Fast breathing
  • Fatigue or tiredness

These will generally depend on the size of the hole and other associated heart defects. Sometimes an ultrasound before birth can also reveal a ventricular septal defect of the heart. 

Read Also: Wondering About Heart Failure Risks? Uncover Its Impact for a Healthier Tomorrow

Causes of Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defects (VSD)

Some factors that can cause a hole in the heart are as follows:

  • Genetic disorder: A child will have a higher chance of getting an atrial septal defect or ventricular septal defect if any one of the parents has a congenital heart defect.
  • Hereditary disorders: Certain hereditary disorders such as a Down’s syndrome can also cause certain heart defects in children from birth.
  • Smoking: Pregnant women who smoke during their pregnancy are more likely to give birth to a child with congenital heart defects.
  • Factors like genetics and environment: While these factors can cause heart defects, there are no clear reasons for them. In such cases, congenital heart defects such as an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) or Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) may arise due to early developmental errors in the heart.

Screening and Diagnosis of Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

Congenital heart defects such as an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) or Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) in the early stages should not be left untreated or undiagnosed else it can lead to the development of certain serious health complications such as:

  • Disrupted normal activities of the heart (Arrhythmias)
  • Extra load on the heart which can trigger heart failure
  • Pulmonary hypertension which can scar the lung arteries due to high blood pressure and volume

To diagnose these health complications, doctors at Yashoda Hospital & Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad, may conduct various diagnostic and screening tests such as:

  • A chest X-ray
  • Pulse oximetry test
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Electrocardiograph testing (ECG)
  • Ultrasound testing

Read Also: Everything you need to know about heart disease

Treatment of Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

Heart defects like hole in the heart can even lead to death. Over the years, there has been an increase in the survival chances for a person suffering from heart defects because of the advancements in medical technology and healthcare.

It has been found that smaller ASDs close on their own during a baby’s first year. The methods of treatment will depend on the children and adults as per their age. Some of the treatment methods used to rectify these heart defects are as follows:

  • Catheter procedure: This procedure is performed under the influence of anesthesia. In this, a catheter is inserted into the vein of the groin up towards the septum (wall of the heart). The two discs attached to the catheter plug the hole between the heart’s atria and the catheter is pushed out of the vein.

It takes around six months for the normal tissues to grow around the device.

  • Surgery: In this procedure, surgeons make an incision in the chest and cover the hole in the heart by using a special patch.
  • Supplements of extra nutrients: This treatment method is used for some defects that do not cause any symptoms. In this method, some extra nutrition is supplemented in small babies through breast milk, high-nutrition formula, bottle feeding etc.

Precautions to be taken during the treatment of Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) or Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

  • Children and adults who have been treated with this condition should take frequent follow-ups with their doctor to track their health progress and follow the guidelines as prescribed by the doctor before returning to their normal activities.
  • Pregnant women should look out for certain health problems post this treatment.
  • Avoid using harmful substances such as tobacco, alcohol and illegal drugs.

You can also work with your doctor to develop an exercise plan that keeps you and your heart healthy.

Best Doctors for Treating Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) or Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

Dr. Yatin Arora is a consultant at Yashoda Hospital and Research centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad. He specializes in Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgery surgery. He holds an M.Ch. from AIIMS Delhi and has extensive experience, including publications, teaching, and assisting senior residents.

Dr. Ankur Agrawal is a skilled Cardiothoracic & Vascular Surgeon at Yashoda Hospital and Research Centre, Nehru Nagar, Ghaziabad. Dr. Agrawal specializes in adult & pediatric cardiac, thoracic, and vascular surgeries.

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Yashoda Hospital

Yashoda Hospital

Yashoda Hospital is one of the best super specialty hospitals in Ghaziabad, Noida & Delhi NCR. Yashoda Hospital aims at providing the best healthcare services across the country and not just in Delhi NCR, Ghaziabad & Noida. Being a super speciality hospital, Yashoda Hospital has a number of dedicated specialities under one roof- gastroenterology, general surgery, obstetrics & gynaecology, cardiology, pulmonology & internal medicine, orthopedics, urology and many more.

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