Congenital Heart Defects

Atrial Septal Defect

Atrial septal defect is a congenital heart defect, meaning the condition occurs during fetal development and is present at birth.

When a babies are developing in the womb, there is an opening between the left and right atriums of the young heart, allowing blood to travel back and forth between the two chambers. This opening is usually closed when the baby is born, allowing blood to flow to the lungs. However, in some patients, this defect may remain open. A small atrial defect is called a PFO (Patent Foramen Ovale).

Image Courtesy of A.D.A.M.

Image Courtesy of A.D.A.M.


  • Fatigue
  • Excessive sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Stunted growth
  • Heart palpitations

Causes & Risk Factors

The exact cause of ASD is generally unknown. It could, however, be due to a genetic abnormality inherited from a parent or from an illness suffered by the mother during pregnancy.


In order to begin to diagnose ASD, your doctor will begin by taking a complete medical history including any family history of heart conditions or congenital defects. Then, he or she will give you a complete physical examination.

In order to arrive at a firm diagnosis, you will likely be asked to undergo one or many of the following tests:

  • Chest X-ray
  • Echocardiogram
  • MRI
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Heart Catheterization


Many patients with ASD show virtually no symptoms of the condition. In fact, very small ASDs usually close on their own with no treatment required.

On other hand, larger ASDs may show symptoms and usually require some form of treatment. Common treatment options usually involve some combination of surgery to repair the ASD and antibiotic medication before and after the procedure.

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