Surgery for Ventricular Septal Defect

What Is Ventricular Septal Defect?

The two ventricles are lower chambers of the heart and are divided by a wall (septum). Ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a hole in this septum. The left side of the heart normally pumps under higher pressure than the right side. The VSD produces a left-to-right switch (shunt) that allows blood from both sides of the heart to mix. The heart has trouble getting oxygen to the rest of the body because it pumps blood with less oxygen to the body. Circulation on the right side of the system can be overloaded, so increased pressure occurs in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension).

VSDs are the most common type of heart abnormality developing before birth (congenital). Defects usually close by themselves or are surgically closed in childhood, but they may last into adulthood. More girls than boys have VSDs.

A small defect may not cause a problem. Large defects can cause heart failure (the heart can’t pump enough blood). The result is feeling tired, trouble breathing (especially with exertion), or chest pain. Sometimes the skin turns blue (cyanosis) because blood with less oxygen reaches the skin. Abnormal heart rhythms (arrhythmias) may develop. If a defect is near the aortic valve, damage to that valve may occur as children grow.

What Causes Ventricular Septal Defect?

The cause is unknown.

What Are the Symptoms of Ventricular Septal Defect?

The most common symptoms are a feeling of weakness, trouble breathing, chest pain, bluish color of the skin, and irregular heartbeat.

How Is Ventricular Septal Defect Diagnosed?

The health care provider uses symptoms and a physical examination to make a diagnosis. Electrocardiography (ECG) may show abnormalities. A chest x-ray may also be abnormal and show enlargement of the heart and of lung vessels. Echocardiography (a test using sound waves to get pictures of the heart) can be used to study the heart’s structure and pumping and measure how well the ventricles work, and examine blood flow.

How Is Ventricular Septal Defect Treated?

People with a small defect or a defect that has closed may never have symptoms and usually need no treatment. If the defect lasts, treatment to correct the defect would likely be needed.

People with VSDs usually see a heart specialist (cardiologist). Treatment may involve surgery to correct the defect. Heart failure, if it occurs, can be treated with drugs to reduce the excess blood volume and help the heart contract better. Sometimes the aortic valve is replaced. If no other heart disease exists, correcting the defect usually allows a normal life span and lifestyle.

People with an open VSD must take antibiotics before and after dental work or surgery. Antibiotics help prevent infection of the lining of the heart (bacterial endocarditis). Antibiotics are generally no longer needed 6 months after surgery is performed to close the VSD.

DOs and DON’Ts in Managing Ventricular Septal Defect:
  • DO take your medicines as prescribed.
  • DO call your health care provider if you have VSD symptoms.
  • DON’T neglect worsening symptoms. See your health care provider.

Contact the following source:

  • American Heart Association
    Tel: (800) 242-8721

Copyright © 2016 by Saunders, an imprint of Elsevier, Inc

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