Atrial Septal Defect – The Symptoms and Treatment

Atrial Septal defect is a congenital heart condition where basically the wall between the two atrial chambers has not fused completely. Due to this anomaly, the blood continuously flows between the right and left atrial compartments.

This may cause the formation of a “shunt” due to the mixing of the atrial and ventricular blood.

Causes of Atrial Septal defect

There is no actual cause for this condition. Basically for a fetus in the intra uterine life there is an opening between the two atrial chambers. The opening closes after child is born. But if there is a septal defect, the opening remains patent.

This condition may worsen with age.

Symptoms of Atrial septal defect

This conditions presents with hardly any symptoms at birth. But they may start appearing through child hood and may worsen at middle age. Symptoms that may occur are as follows:

1) Shortness of breath due to the shunts that are formed. These Shunts cause excessive pressure on one side of the heart leading to shortness in breath (dyspnoea).

2) In cases of adults there may be palpitations and pulmonary distress in severe cases.

3) Signs of cyanosis can occur if the shunted blood is pumped out into the periphery.

Diagnosis of Atrial septal defect

Diagnosis for children with this defect is done at an early stage when the child is a fetus, with the help of an ultra sonogram.

In adults the diagnosis can be done by auscultation with a stethoscope. Abnormal heart sounds can be heard like a murmur can be heard in a certain area.

Children present with a typical sign of a septal defect i.e., a patent foramen ovale it is basically a remnant of the fetal foramen ovale. The following tests are carried out to confirm the diagnosis:

1) A echocardiogram can be done

2) A Chest x-ray

3) A M.RI

4) A electrocardiogram

A typical sign of this condition is a splitting of the S2 heart sound on auscultation.


Adults with this defect may present the following complications based on the severity of the defect.

1) Atrial fibrillations

2) Failure in the right side of the heart.

3) A stroke due to increased pressure on the right side of the heart.

Treatment of Atrial septal defect

There is no treatment required for cases which are symptom less.

But if the defect is larger and there is any type of irregularity or abnormality in the size of the heart a surgical repair is required for the defect. A patch is placed to surgically close the opening.

A newer procedure is used these days by using a catheter method. It is inserted via the thigh muscle to the area of the septal defect and it is pushed open. Thus it closes the opening between the two atria.

Prognosis of Atrial septal defect

Prognosis is good for people having smaller defects without any symptoms. But people having larger defects may show some type of disability later in life.

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