An atrial septal defect, or hole in the heart, is a birth or congenital heart defect affecting approximately 25% of children. A baby born with ASD has a hole in the septum, a muscular wall separating the two atria (upper chambers of the heart).
Sometimes this muscular wall or septum does not develop or close properly, resulting in ASD. Due to this defect, oxygenated blood from the left atrium flows into the right atrium and mixes with oxygen-poor blood. Thus, it increases the amount of blood that flows through the lungs.
Smaller defects might be discovered by accident and may never be an issue, but a large, long-lasting ASD can seriously harm the heart and lungs.
If you don't treat ASD, the right side of the heart may become overworked, and the lungs may become overfilled with extra blood from a significant atrial septal defect. The consequences of atrial septal defects may persist into adulthood if not treated. Over time, the heart's right side enlarges and weakens. Additionally, elevated blood pressure in the lungs' arteries can result in complications such as pulmonary hypertension, congestive heart failure (a condition in which the heart muscle weakens), atrial arrhythmias (abnormal heart rhythms or beating), and a higher risk of stroke.
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Types of ASD Include
- Sinus venosus
- Coronary sinus
Many babies born with atrial septal defects have no signs or symptoms. Signs or symptoms can begin in adulthood.
ASD symptoms in babies can include:
Frequent respiratory or lung infections
Difficulty in breathing
Tiring when feeding (infants)
Shortness of breath
A heart murmur
Swelling of legs, feet, or stomach area
Causes Of ASD
There is no clear cause of an atrial septal defect. Atrial septal defects occur during heart development while a baby is still in the womb. There may also be genetic influences, underlying medical conditions, medication use, environmental influences, and lifestyle influences, including smoking and drinking.
Clinical Diagnosis Of ASD
A heart specialist can detect the defect either before or after the baby is born. An ultrasound can identify the atrial septal defect of the child in a pregnant woman. A doctor can identify ASD after birth by listening with a stethoscope for a particular murmur. Doctors may recommend other diagnostic tests like the 2D echo, chest X-ray, and ECG to confirm further.
Cure For ASD
The factors determining the treatment of ASD are the age, location, size, and severity of the defect. For very small ASDs, a cardiologist may not recommend any medical or surgical intervention and instead advise follow-up visits for observation. Atrial septal defects that have not closed on their own by the time a child reaches the age of four or five may require procedures like cardiac catheterization or surgery. The success rate of ASD falls between 70-86%.
Cardiovascular catheterization involves inserting a catheter into the leg artery that leads to the heart, guiding it into the heart chambers, and measuring blood flow, oxygen levels, and pressure. Then the surgeon places an implant into the hole and allows it to flatten against the septum. This flattened implant permanently seals the hole.
The catheter technique is insufficient to close the atrial septal defect (ASD) if it is in an unusual position or if additional heart defects are present. In these situations, the surgeon conducts heart surgery to close the defect.
It is advised to follow up frequently for the first few weeks to see how things are going. An echocardiogram might be necessary to ensure the opening has healed or been closed.
After surgery, you should see a cardiologist if you have trouble breathing, bluish lips, tongue, or mouth, lose weight, or become less active.
What Should You Avoid If You Have A Hole In Your Heart?
Do not consume alcohol. Alcohol can increase your chances of developing high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.
Consume heart-healthy foods and limit your sodium and salt intake.
Include more fresh fruits and vegetables and minimize canned and processed foods.
Substitute heart-healthy oils like olive and canola for butter and margarine.
Other heart-healthy foods include walnuts, whole-grain bread, low-fat dairy products, beans, salmon, tuna, and lean meats.
It may be necessary to avoid strenuous activities to decrease symptoms. Activities like running, weightlifting, swimming, scuba diving, or hiking at high altitudes may put too much stress on your heart.
Do not smoke.
You are more likely to develop high blood pressure, diabetes, and heart disease if you are overweight.
Even though ASD is a serious condition, early detection, and treatment can help avert its complications so that the child can lead a normal and active life.
The good news is that cardiologists at the best heart surgery hospitals are well-versed in treating ASDs and their complications.