What is Ventricular Septal Defect: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment, Complications, Prevention

What is Ventricular Septal Defect?

Ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a common congenital heart condition which is characterized by a hole in the wall or septum, which separates the ventricles of the heart and allows blood to pass from the left side to the right side of the heart. The oxygenated blood then gets pumped back into the lungs, instead of being passed into the body, causing stress on the heart. A tiny Ventricular septal defect is generally not problematic and often closes on its own. However, medium or larger ventricular septal defects may require surgical repair early in life to avoid complications.

What is Ventricular Septal Defect?

What are the Symptoms of Ventricular Septal Defect?

Signs and symptoms of severe heart defects appear within the first few days, weeks or months of a child’s life. Babies with Ventricular septal defect tire easily, have a poor appetite, experience breathlessness, and do not have optimal growth and development. The signs of a Ventricular septal defect are noticeable at birth. The symptoms differ according to the size of the hole and other related heart defects. If the ventricular septal defect is small, then symptoms do not show up until later in childhood. The doctor can suspect a heart defect during a regular check up if they hear a murmur while listening to the baby’s heart with a stethoscope. At times, Ventricular septal defects can also be identified through an ultrasound even before the baby’s birth. Sometimes, a Ventricular septal defect remains undetected until a baby reaches adulthood. The individual may experience fatigue, weakness, irregular and rapid heartbeat, and breathlessness while lying down or on exerting themselves.

What are the Causes Ventricular Septal Defect?

Problems which occur early in the fetal heart development give rise to congenital heart defects, but generally no clear cause can be identified for ventricular septal defect. Environmental and genetics factors are believed to play a vital role in causing this disease. Ventricular septal defects can occur alone or happen along with other congenital heart defects. During fetal development, when the septum, i.e. the muscular wall separating the heart into left and right chambers, fails to form completely between the ventricles, then a ventricular septal defect occurs. In normal circumstances, the right side of the heart pumps deoxygenated blood into the lungs for the purpose of oxygenation, while the left side pumps out the oxygenated blood into the rest of the body. A Ventricular septal defect lets the oxygenated blood mix with the deoxygenated blood, causing the heart to work harder for supplying enough oxygen to the body’s tissues. Ventricular septal defects can vary in sizes and can be present in multiple locations in the heart’s septum. A person can have more than one Ventricular septal defect or VSD. Ventricular septal defect can also be acquired later in life, usually post a heart attack or as a complication after certain heart procedures.

Diagnosis & Treatment of Ventricular Septal Defect

While examining a patient, if the doctor hears a heart murmur and detects other symptoms of Ventricular septal defect, they can order for several tests like an echocardiogram, ECG, chest x-ray, cardiac catheterization, and pulse oximetry to confirm a Ventricular septal defect diagnosis. Most babies born with Ventricular septal defect do not require a surgery to close the hole in their heart. The doctor can keep the baby under observation and treat the symptoms while waiting for the ventricular septal defect to close on its own. Doctors can prescribe medications like diuretics, such as furosemide; and beta blockers like metoprolol and propranolol to treat Ventricular septal defects. Most people with small Ventricular septal defects live productive lives with few related problems. Children and adults with medium or large sized Ventricular septal defects or one which is causing significant symptoms would need surgery to close the ventricular septal defect. Procedures like open heart surgery, catheterization, and surgical and catheter-based hybrid techniques can be used to repair and close the ventricular septal defect. Babies who require surgical repair, often undergo the procedure in their first year.

Complications from Ventricular Septal Defect

A small ventricular septal defect seldom causes any problems. But medium or large ventricular septal defects can cause mild to life-threatening disabilities. Proper and timely treatment can help to prevent many serious complications like heart failure, endocarditis, pulmonary hypertension, valve problems and abnormal heart rhythms.

Prevention of Ventricular Septal Defect

Ventricular septal defects can run in families and may sometimes even occur with other genetic disorders like Down syndrome. Nothing can be done to prevent a woman from having a baby with a VSD. However, it is very important for women to take all possible measures for having a healthy pregnancy and baby. Expecting mothers should get early prenatal care, even from before conceiving. Expecting mothers should eat a balanced, healthy and nutritious diet, exercise regularly, avoid consuming alcohol, avoid using drugs and tobacco, get vaccinated against infections, and keep their blood sugar levels in check. Women with a family history of heart defects or other genetic disorders must consult a genetic counsellor before getting pregnant.

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