The most prevalent inbred cardiac anomaly reported in adults is atrial septal defect (ASD). It is a profound anomaly existing in approx. 35% of total congenital heart defects accounted till date. In the earlier times when medical sciences had not grown up much, the only solution to atrial septal defect was open-heart surgery via a slit in the patient’s chest using a heart-lung bypass machine.
Considering the seriousness of the defect and lack of technology it was hard to be cured and surgery also required around a week’s time under guidance for safe recovery. Loads of appreciation to the scientists and researchers because of whom, atrial septal defects can be cured successfully without surgery today. However, some circumstances are extreme and surgery becomes the only option but, the rate of people surviving atrial septal defect without surgery and leading a healthy life has raised very nicely.
Apt. Diagnosis Precedes the Cure
The widespread use of echocardiography has proven as a fortune for atrial septal defect patients. If a doctor hears heart murmurs in either member of the family during regular checkups, they suspect it to be atrial septal defect or some other heart defect. To rectify this, the doctor usually starts the diagnosis via Echocardiogram. In the test, the doctor watches your heart chambers carefully and measures their pumping strengths. Heart valves are also observed while testing with echocardiogram and if found any sign of any congenital septal defect immediate treatment is recommended.
Often a septal defect comes up while doing chest x-ray for regular heart/lung checkup. In addition to these, when a person tells the medical examiner about abnormal heartbeats or heart murmurs, one is suggested to go for ECG. It is an electrocardiogram test in which electrical activity of heart is recorded and hence heart rhythm problems are identified.
CT (computerized tomography) scan and MRI (magnetic resonance imaging) are also a helping hand to diagnose atrial septal defects. They both create detailed image of the heart and other organs and tissues of the body. However, CT scan and MRI are done only when echocardiography is unsure of the defect’s presence.
Self-Healing Atrial Septal Defects
Many small atrial septal defects fade away by age viz. as the infant reaches adulthood or graduates, the hole in the heart disappears naturally. In such cases, there is not any need of surgery or treatment. The adult (who was born with ASD) can live a long and healthy life without any hassles.
Can Atrial Septal Defect be Cured?
The cardiologist makes sure that it is not a self-healing hole in the first place by observing the patient for a while. Once confirmed, the cardiologist goes on to start the treatment required as per the size and location of septal defect.
Unlike other ailments, atrial septal defects remain unaffected by medications. Nevertheless medications can help in reducing the side effects and symptoms of atrial septal defects. Also when the patient goes under a surgery, one needs medication afterwards so as to keep the heartbeat regular and prevent further clotting.
In cases of acute pulmonary hyperextension, doctors try to avoid any surgery. Evaluating the location of septal opening of the individual, doctors go for treatment procedure. The two options for curing atrial septal defects are cardiac catheterization and open-heart surgery. The secundum atrial septal defect is treated by cardiac catheterization, in which a thin tube (aka catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin and is headed to heart using 3D imaging techniques. Placing this catheter close to the hole ensures that heart tissues start growing there. As a result, the hole seals permanently.
Primum, sinus venosus and coronary sinus types of atrial septal defects can only be cured via open-heart surgery. In these cases, surgeons use a heart-lung machine to patch and seal the hole in patient’s heart.
Once a patient is cured, one can carry on an active life ahead. Still yearly follow ups with your medical examiner would be beneficial in order to stay out of woe.