At birth septal defects are referred to as a “hole in the heart”. An opening in the upper or lower heart wall (the septum) between the left and right heart chambers allows blood to flow in the wrong direction. This results in mixing of oxygen-rich blood and oxygen-depleted blood. Symptoms may include heart murmur, bluish skin color and slow growth depending on the severity of the defect. If surgical repair is necessary, closing the opening in the heart wall results in normal blood flow in the heart.
Types of Septal Defects:
- Atrial septal defect - The hole in the heart wall is between the two upper chambers (left and right atria) of the heart. This defect allows oxygen-rich blood to flow back into the lungs instead of to the body.
- Ventricular septal defect (VSD) - The hole in the heart wall is between the two lower chambers (left and right ventricles) of the heart. This defect allows oxygen-rich blood to flow back into the right ventricle to the right atrium (upper-right heart chamber) and back to the lungs instead of to the body.
- Atrioventricular septal defect (complete atrioventricular canal) – As this term implies, the hole in the heart wall is between the right and left upper and right and left lower chambers of the heart, and includes defects of the tricuspid and mitral valves. This defect allows oxygen-depleted and oxygen-rich blood to mix and circulate back to the lungs. This defect requires surgery during infancy.
For additional information and illustrations of the above defects follow the American Heart Association links at http://americanheart.org; click on “diseases and conditions”, “adults with congenital heart disease”, “congenital heart defects”, and select the specific defect.