Ventricular Septal Defects

Treating Cardiovascular Diseases in Wisconsin and Northern Illinois

A ventricular septal defect, or VSD, is a congenital heart condition that is sometimes referred to as a hole in the heart. Ventricular septal defects occur when a hole forms in the muscular wall separating the heart’s two lower chambers, or ventricles.

When a hole exists between the two lower chambers, blood is allowed to pass from the left side of the heart to the right size. To compensate for this inefficient blood flow, the heart is forced to work harder. 

Ventricular Septal Defect Symptoms 

In most cases, symptoms of ventricular septal defectare diagnosed shortly after birth, when a doctor detects the condition’s distinctive heart murmur with a stethoscope. This murmur is caused by blood flowing backward from the left ventricle into the right ventricle.

If the hole is small, this murmur may be the only sign of this condition. Small holes have a 75 percent chance of closing on their own, without further treatment. If the hole is medium or large, there’s only a 5 percent to 10 percent chance that it will close on its own.

In addition to heart murmurs, infants and children with larger holes are likely to exhibit any of the following symptoms:

  • A buildup of blood and fluid in the lungs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Slow growth rate
  • Swelling in the ankles, feet, legs or abdomen
  • Weakness or fatigue, especially among infants while eating

Left undiagnosed and untreated, a VSD may cause the following conditions:

  • Arrhythmias, caused when the heart stretches and enlarges, disrupting the heart’s normal electrical activity
  • Heart failure, due to the extra workload on the heart
  • Pulmonary hypertension, which can occur when high blood pressure and high blood volumes scar the lung’s arteries

Ventricular Septal Defect Causes

Most of the time, doctors don’t know why congenital heart defects occur, and they continue to search for causes. They know heredity and some genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, play a role. Smoking during pregnancy has also been linked to septal defects. 

Diagnosing Ventricular Septal Defects

Because ventricularseptal defects cause a very distinct heart murmur, most cases are diagnosed shortly after birth or in the first few weeks or months of life. To confirm the condition and assess its size and location, doctors are likely to perform any of the following tests:

Treating Heart Valve Disease

The type of treatment depends of the severity of the symptoms. Children who have small VSDs and no symptoms only need occasional follow-up with a cardiologist. Checkups may range from once a month to once every 1 or 2 years.

Most VSDs that require treatment are repaired with open-heart surgery and patches in the first year of life. Doctors may also prescribe special feedings for infants to provide extra calories and nourishment.

After surgical repair, children can expect to lead healthy, active lives throughout adulthood. However, they should have occasional checkups with a cardiologist. To avoid the risk of heart infections, they should take antibiotics before having dental work or invasive medical procedures.

Excellent Care by Leading Specialists in Congenital Heart Disease

Aurora Health Care is a leader in the treatment of complex heart conditions, such as congenital heart defects. We offer you the highest level of care in the hands of experts who use advanced diagnostic and therapeutic technologies.

Our multidisciplinary team includes pediatric cardiologists, imaging specialists and surgeons who work together to provide you with state-of-the-art care from your diagnosis and treatment through your follow-up care.

Aurora doctors are conveniently located throughout eastern Wisconsin and northeastern Illinois. Find a doctor or heart specialist near you. To get a second opinion or if you need assistance finding a provider, please call 888-649-6892.