Understanding Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

atrial septal defect

Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital heart defect. If you have ASD, you were born with a hole between the upper chambers of your heart. This hole may cause higher levels of blood to go through the lungs. Known as one of the most common congenital heart defects in children, ASD affects more than 2,000 babies each year. 

Here at Minimally Invasive and Bloodless Heart Surgery with Dr. Ciuffo, we will explore the types, symptoms, and causes of an atrial septal defect, along with their complications and treatments.

Types of ASDs

There are a number of ASDs, including: 

  • Secundum: Secundum is the most common type of atrial septal defect. It arises in the atrial septum, the wall between the upper heart chambers. 
  • Primum: Primum occurs in the lower part of the wall, which is located between the upper heart chambers. It may present itself with other heart issues at birth.
  • Sinus venosus: Sinus venosus is a rare form of ASD. It appears in the upper part of the wall, between the heart chambers, typically with other heart structure changes at birth. 
  • Coronary sinus: Coronary sinus refers to the vein system of the heart. It’s also rare and occurs when part of the wall between the part of the vein system of the heart is missing. 

Symptoms Of ASD

It’s not uncommon for a baby with ASD to be asymptomatic. Oftentimes, symptoms begin when an individual reaches adulthood and may include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during physical activity
  • Fatigue
  • Arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats
  • Swelling in the legs, feet, or belly
  • Palpitations

Causes Of ASD

At this time, the cause of atrial septal defect is unclear. However, we do know that it occurs during pregnancy and is a result of a problem with heart development in the fetus. Some of the risk factors of ASD may be gene changes, smoking and alcohol abuse during pregnancy, and certain medications that are used to treat mood disorders and seizures. 

Complications Of ASD

The good news is small ASDs aren’t usually a cause for concern and close during infancy. Larger ASDs, on the other hand, may increase the risk of complications, such as stroke, arrhythmias or irregular heartbeats, pulmonary hypertension, or high blood pressure in the lung arteries. They may also lead to right-sided heart failure.

Treatments For ASD

There are a number of treatments that can ensure those with atrial septal defect can lead high-quality lives. The ideal treatment plan depends on the type of ASD and size, how it’s impacting the heart, and whether there are other conditions that are present. 

While small ASDs usually don’t require repair, larger ASDs should be repaired, even if they don’t cause any symptoms, in order to reduce the risk of complications in the future. Also, if you’re dealing with a condition, such as pulmonary hypertension, you may need to take medication beforehand to get it under control and ready for repair. 

Preventing ASD

Since ASD is a congenital heart condition that develops in the fetus and is present at birth, it’s not possible to prevent it. However, making healthy choices during pregnancy can help reduce its risk. If you have atrial septal defect or a history of it in our family, it’s especially important for you to quit smoking and drinking, stay away from secondhand smoke, and avoid recreational drugs, like cocaine. You should also consult your doctor about any of your medications and find out how they might impact pregnancy.

Have Questions About ASDs? Contact Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery Today

If you or someone you love is living with an atrial septal defect, don’t hesitate to contact us at our office at (702) 333-7200 to speak with a team member. We’d be more than happy to provide you with the information and resources you need to take control of your condition and lead life to the fullest.  For additional information about our practice, please visit Nevada Heart and Vascular or University Medical Center

A picture of Giovanni B. Ciuffo, MD wearing his Mercy One doctor attire.

About the Author

Giovanni B. Ciuffo, MD Director is an expert in Minimally Invasive Heart Surgery and Bloodless Heart Surgery is the outcome of his commitment to the development and improvement of both of these techniques. He runs a Cardiothoracic Surgery practice and manages Minimally Invasive and Bloodless Heart Surgery Program where he cares for patients from all over the country and locally. Click here to learn more about Dr. Ciuffo.

Board Certified:
American Board of Surgery
American Board of Thoracic Surgery