An atrial septal defect (or “ASD”) is a hole between the top two chambers of the heart (the “atria”). These holes are present from birth. Most people do not know they have an ASD because most are small and do not cause symptoms. However, the ASD can grow and change how the blood flows through the heart. This change in blood flow can lead to extra stress on the heart chambers and sometimes causes the chambers to enlarge. Symptoms of a significant ASD can be shortness of breath, heart murmurs, abnormal heart beats, or fatigue.
If there is suspicion of an ASD being present, an echocardiogram is a quick and painless imaging test to help confirm an ASD. An echocardiogram is a quick and painless ultrasound of the heart that can also check for chamber enlargement and to estimate any blood flow changes. In order to to further detect the ASD, a contrast saline (“salt water”) injection may be performed. This is done through a small IV in the arm and is generally painless.
Most ASDs do not need much more than observation. However, if the ASD is large and started to cause symptoms and chamber enlargement, it might need to be closed. Most ASDs can be closed through a simple catheter procedure. The procedure is painless, does not require general anesthesia, and most patients go home the next day.
If you need more information, make an appointment to meet with one of our physicians/structural heart specialists.