Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)
Sometimes called a hole in the heart, ventricular septal defects occur in the wall between the heart’s two ventricular (pumping) chambers. This congenital defect creates abnormal blood flow through the heart. It may result in a murmur that can be heard on exam and it can be diagnosed by an echocardiogram.
In a normal heart, oxygen-depleted blood returns to the right atrium and empties into the right ventricle which then pumps the blood to the lungs to get oxygen. Oxygen-rich blood from the lungs returns to the heart’s left atrium and is pumped out to the body via the left ventricle.
Heart With Ventricular Septal Defect
In a heart with a VSD, a defect in the wall between the two ventricles allows oxygen-rich blood to pass from the left ventricle into the right ventricle. The oxygen-rich blood mixes with oxygen-depleted blood being sent to the lungs. This inefficiency increases the volume of blood being passed
through the lungs and returning to the left side of the heart, resulting in extra work for the heart and lungs.
Many patients with a VSD will have few symptoms in the first few weeks of life. If the hole is large, a person may develop symptoms of congestive heart failure at about 6 weeks of age. These may include
sweating while feeding, poor growth, and a fast breathing rate. Patients with small defects may
have no symptoms.
Small defects may close on their own during the first year of life. However, a VSD that is left untreated and does not close may lead to other medical conditions such as pulmonary hypertension or Eisenmenger’s syndrome.
A defect that creates noticeable symptoms or enlargement of the heart requires surgical closure. Treatment of the defect in childhood can prevent serious problems later in life.