Before you begin reading about ventricular septal defects, please read the explanation of how the normal heart works for a basic understanding of the heart's structure and function.
View Large Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) IllustrationA ventricular septal defect (VSD) is an opening in the tissue (the septum) between the heart's lower chambers (the ventricles). A VSD is one of the defects referred to as "a hole in the heart."
When the VSD is large, the heart may have to pump harder to deliver enough oxygen to the body. Patients with a small VSD usually do not have any symptoms.
Sometimes children with a VSD also have other heart abnormalities.
If the hole is large, a child might exhibit symptoms including:
VSD might be diagnosed before birth, with fetal echocardiogram. In this case, our Fetal Heart Program will prepare a plan for care after birth.
Or, a VSD might be diagnosed soon after birth, if the newborn exhibits symptoms or a doctor notices a heart murmur. Sometimes a VSD isn't diagnosed until the child is older.
Diagnosis of a ventricular septal defect may require some or all of these tests:
It is important that a VSD be diagnosed and treated, as needed, or the heart and the arteries between the heart and lungs might be damaged.
Treatment options for a ventricular septal defect will depend on your child's health and on the size of the VSD. Doctors may wait to see if the VSD will close on its own. Many small VSDs will do so before the child is 2 years old.
If the VSD requires surgery, doctors might wait until your child is older and stronger. During that time, your child may have to take medicines as well as have higher-calorie intake to help with the symptoms. Our surgeons are among the most experienced in the nation in VSD closure. If surgery is needed, they will place a patch or stitches to close the hole during open-heart surgery.
After a VSD repair, many children recover quickly and won't experience additional cardiac problems. They must see a pediatric cardiologist for checkups, and some remain on medicine. Rarely, additional surgery is required.
If the child has other heart abnormalities, more follow-up care will be required.
Our pediatric cardiologists follow patients until they are young adults, coordinating care with primary care physicians.
It's important that adults who were born with a VSD continue to see a cardiologist. We will help patients transition care to adult cardiologists through the Philadelphia Adult Congenital Heart Center, a joint program of The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia and Penn Medicine. The program meets the unique needs of adults who were born with heart defects.
Because of enormous strides in medicine and technology, today most children with heart conditions go on to lead healthy, productive lives.
Contact the Cardiac Center at The Children's Hospital of Philadelphia for a second opinion or for more information.
Reviewed by: Paul Farrell, MD
Date: October 2008
For a second opinion, cardiac referral, or for more information.
To schedule an outpatient appointment.