Atrial Septal Defect Treated by Mercy's Board Certified Doctors

The Heart Center at Mercy

The cardiologists at The Heart Center at Mercy Medical Center in Baltimore, Maryland, can provide a full evaluation of atrial septal defect. Our specialists will work with you to determine the best plan of care for your atrial septal defect.

About the Condition

Atrial septal defect is an abnormal hole in the muscle wall (septum) that is between the upper chambers (atria) of the heart. It can occur early in the development of the baby within the womb. The cause is not known. Factors such as German measles during pregnancy, alcohol or illegal drug use may play a role. This congenital heart defect may close by itself during childhood, but larger holes that don’t close naturally can lead to complications later in life. Complications may include an enlarged heart, heart arrhythmias or pulmonary hypertension or stroke.

NEXT: Symptoms & Diagnostic Process ›
Symptoms & Diagnostic Process

Many people with this defect don’t have any symptom until adulthood or later in life. Major symptoms can be:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Heart palpitations
  • Bluish skin color
  • Frequent respiratory infections
  • Swelling of legs
  • Fatigue

These diagnostic tests can be used to determine whether an atrial septal defect is present, the defect’s size and exactly where the defect is located in the atrial wall:

NEXT: Treatment Options ›
Treatment Options

Treatment depends on the size of the hole, the types and severity of symptoms and the presence or absence of other conditions. Small holes may not cause any symptoms and may not need treatment. For larger defects causing symptoms the aim is to manage symptoms and prevent complications. No medications can repair the hole, but certain drugs can help to prevent clots and keep the heartbeat regular.

If the defect needs to be repaired, a catheter procedure may be used to plug the hole. Open heart surgery may be needed for very large defects.