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A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a hole in the wall (septum) of the heart that separates the lower chambers (ventricles). It is a common congenital (from birth) heart defect. The hole allows blood to pass from the left to the right side of the heart. This causes oxygen-rich blood to get pumped back to the lungs instead of out to the body. The heart has to work harder to give the body enough oxygen.
VSDs may be of various sizes, and they can be present in several locations in the septum. A small VSD may cause no problems and may even close on its own. Medium or larger VSDs likely need surgical repair.
It's also possible to acquire a VSD later in life, usually after a heart attack or as a complication following certain heart procedures.
Signs and symptoms of serious heart defects often appear during the first few days, weeks, or months of a child's life.
Symptoms in a baby with VSD may include:
If left untreated, complications from a VSD can include:
Congenital heart defects arise from problems early in the heart's development, but there's often no clear cause.
VSDs may run in families and sometimes may occur with other genetic problems, such as Down syndrome. If you already have a child with a heart defect, a genetic counselor can discuss the risk of your next child having one.
VSDs often cause a heart murmur that your doctor can hear using a stethoscope. To confirm the diagnosis, your doctor may order several tests, including:
Many babies born with a small VSD won't need surgery to close the hole. After birth, your doctor may want to observe your baby and treat symptoms while waiting to see if the defect closes independently.
Babies who have large VSDs or who tire easily during feeding may need to be given extra nutrition with baby formula to help them grow. Medications may be used for VSD to decrease the amount of fluid in circulation and the lungs. Medications called diuretics (water pills) reduce how much blood must be pumped.
Surgical treatment involves plugging or patching the abnormal opening between the ventricles with open-heart surgery or catheterization. Catheterization doesn't require opening the chest. Rather, the doctor inserts a thin tube (catheter) into a blood vessel in the groin and guides it to the heart. The doctor then uses a mesh device to close the hole.
After the VSD is repaired, you or your child will need follow-up care throughout life for doctors to monitor your condition and check for any signs of complications.
Here are a few tips for managing your or your child's condition:
Presbyterian’s Pediatric and Congenital Cardiology team has many different options to help you manage your or your child’s heart condition. The team performs various diagnostic tests and procedures to help form an accurate diagnosis and create individualized treatment plans. Depending on the type of heart condition your child has and its underlying cause, the team can recommend a wide variety of treatment options. Our pediatric cardiologists, pediatric interventional cardiologists, and pediatric cardiovascular surgeons work closely together for cases in which cardiac repair or surgery is the best treatment option.