A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a defect in the wall called the septum that is between the heart's 2 lower chambers called the ventricles. A septal defect is often referred to as a hole in the heart.
Normally, the right side of the heart receives oxygen-poor blood and pumps it to the lungs where it is filled with oxygen. The blood is then sent back to the left side of the heart, which pumps oxygen-rich blood to the rest of the body. But with VSD, the heart pumps inefficiently. The oxygen-rich blood is pumped back to the lungs.
VSD can lead to enlargement of the heart and high blood pressure in the blood vessels of the lungs.
Most VSDs are a type of congenital heart defect, meaning they are present at birth. It is unclear why VSDs develop, but genetics may play a part. Although rare, some VSDs can occur after a heart attack or trauma.
VSD is more common in young infants and children. Other factors that increase your chances of VSD include:
A small VSD may not cause symptoms Some VSDs may cause the following symptoms:
You will be asked about your child's symptoms and medical history. The exam will include listening to your child's heart to detect a heart murmur. If a heart problem is suspected, your child will likely be referred to a pediatric cardiologist. This is a doctor who specializes in heart problems in babies and children.
The heart may need to be viewed. This can be done with:
The heart activity may be tested. This can be done with electrocardiogram.
Bodily fluids may need to be tested. This can be done with blood tests.
The oxygen in your blood may be tested. This can be done with pulse oximetry.
Talk with your doctor about the best treatment plan for you or your child. Treatment options include the following:
More than half of VSDs will close on their own. If there are no signs of heart failure, the doctor may recommend periodic check-ups to see if the defect closes on its own.
Surgery is often recommended to repair large VSDs that cause symptoms or that have not closed by 1 year of age. This involves open heart surgery to place a patch over the hole.
In cases of VSD in which a child fails to gain weight, extra nutrition may be needed. This consists of high-calorie formulas, breast milk supplements, and tube-feedings.
Since it is unclear what causes congenital VSDs, there is no known way to prevent them. Acquired VSDs may be prevented by early treatment of heart attacks.
American Heart Association
National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute
Canadian Cardiovascular Society
Heart and Stroke Foundation of Canada
Crenshaw BS, et al. Risk factors, angiographic patterns, and outcomes in patients with ventricular septal defect complicating acute myocardial infarction. Circulation. 2000;101;27-32.
What are holes in the heart? National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/dci/Diseases/holes/holes_whatare.html. Updated July 1, 2011. Accessed June 30, 2015.
Last reviewed June 2015 by Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.