Condition: Atrial Septal Defect

An Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall that divides the upper chambers of the heart.


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What is an
Atrial Septal Defect?

An Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall that divides the upper chambers of the heart and is present from birth. The hole can vary in size, and may close on its own, or may need to be treated with device closure or surgery.

It is often diagnosed in adults when they have an ECG or echocardiogram.

ASD seen on Transoesophageal Echo (TOE)

Symptoms of an
Atrial Septal Defect

Whilst Atrial Septal Defect is congenital, many patients do not have any signs or symptoms until later in life, or it may be entirely asymptomatic, and is picked up on routine echocardiography.

Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Frequent respiratory or lung infections
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Shortness of breath with exercise
  • Heart murmurs
  • Swelling of the legs, feet or stomach
  • Stroke

Risk factors with
an Atrial Septal Defect

It is unknown as to why some babies are born with this heart defect, although studies have shown that some heart defects are thought to be caused by changes in their genes or chromosomes. It is also thought that these changes in genes combined with other risk factors including the environment, food, drink or other medicines during pregnancy can also cause heart defects.

Testing for an
Atrial Septal Defect

Your Consultant will perform a Transthoracic Echocardiogram (TTE) which is an ultrasound of the heart to fully understand the extent of the condition and next steps.

How to treat an
Atrial Septal Defect

How the defect is treated depends on the age, symptoms, size of the defect and any other conditions.

Medication will be able to treat the symptoms of the defect, but there are no known medications to treat the defect itself.

In both child and adult, surgery may be the best option to close the hole.

  • Open Heart Surgery– this can be done usually without a median sternotomy, using minimal access techniques. This will be under general anaesthetic, and will mean a few days in hospital.
  • Device closure – Under general anaesthesia, with Transoesophageal echocardiography (TOE) and X-ray control, an “umbrella” device can be used to close the hole. This is a day-case procedure or overnight stay, with only a small puncture in the groin.

Your Cardiologist will help you decide what the best treatment is for you.

The procedure to close the hole is called Cardiac Catheterisation.

Atrial Septal Defect Specialists

Our Heart Health specialists at OneWelbeck in London are leaders in their field. They are equipped with the latest diagnostic medical technology at custom-built, day-case facilities to investigate any symptoms and ensure you receive the best available care.