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What is an Atrial Septal Defect?

Posted Aug 24 2008 1:49pm
ANNOUNCER: If you or someone you know has been diagnosed with atrial septal defect, here are some basic facts about this type of heart condition.

JACQUELINE NOONAN, MD: An atrial septal defect is a relatively common kind of congenital heart defect. That means it's a heart problem that you're born with.

SPENCER B. KING, III, MD: An atrial septal defect is a hole between the two upper chambers, the two atria. They are divided normally by a septum, that is, a wall, a division between the two chambers. But when the septum grows together, sometimes it leaves a hole, and that's called an atrial septal defect.

The result of that is, if it's a large hole, there is blood going from the high-pressure side of the heart, that's the left side, across that atrial septal defect to the right side, so it increases the blood flow to the lungs, and it increases the amount of blood being handled by the right side of the heart.

JACQUELINE NOONAN, MD: In a very large atrial septal defect, it can cause symptoms, but a small atrial septal defect may not cause any symptoms, and in fact this is one of the few kinds of heart disease where somebody might not be diagnosed with it until they were already an adult. Most kinds of congenital heart disease are recognized sometimes as early as right after birth or even before birth.

SPENCER B. KING, III, MD: Many people tolerate them forever, their whole life, and die of something else and never know they have them. But in general, when they're discovered, if there is a substantial shunt of blood, the blood flowing from the left to the right, then those are recommended for closure.

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