A congenital heart defect in which there is a hole in the heart
Expert Heart & Vascular Care
Getting the care you need starts with seeing one of our heart or vascular specialists.
An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall that separates the top two chambers of the heart (atria), allowing blood to leak between the chambers. It’s a congenital heart defect, meaning you were born with it.
Small ASDs may never cause a problem, but larger holes can cause life-threatening problems, such as:
What are the types of atrial septal defect?
There are several types of atrial septal defect:
- Coronary sinus: This is rare and means part of the wall between the chambers is missing
- Primum: This defect occurs in the lower part of the wall
- Secundum: The most common ASD, it occurs in the middle of the wall
- Sinus venosus: This rare defect occurs in the upper part of the wall
What are the symptoms of ASD?
While an atrial septal defect is present from birth, you likely won’t exhibit symptoms until you’re older. Signs of an ASD may include:
- Frequent lung infections
- Heart murmur, a rasping or whooshing sound that can be heard between heartbeats through a stethoscope
- Palpitations, or sensations of a racing heart or fluttering in your chest
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the legs, feet or abdomen
What causes ASD?
Congenital heart defects can run in families. Talk to your doctor about genetic testing if you or a family member has an atrial septal defect.
Some conditions that occur during pregnancy can increase the risk of a baby having ASD, including:
- Drug, tobacco or alcohol use
- Rubella, also known as German measles
- Phenylketonuria (PKU)
Cardiac catheterization is a minimally invasive way to diagnose and treat a variety of heart and vascular conditions by guiding thin, flexible tubes called catheters through blood vessels to problem areas.
The cardiac computed tomography scan, or cardiac CT, uses X-rays to create three-dimensional images of your heart and blood vessels.
An echocardiogram uses high-frequency sound waves to create images of your heart.
An electrocardiogram, also known as an ECG, measures the heart’s electrical activity.
Magnetic resonance imaging, better known as cardiac MRI, is a combination of radio waves, magnets and computer technology to create images of your heart and blood vessels.
Stress tests are used to assess how your heart works during physical activity. There are several types of stress tests, including treadmill or bike stress tests, nuclear stress tests, stress echocardiograms and chemically induced stress tests.
Transesophageal echocardiogram allows us to take very detailed images of your heart structure from a probe in your esophagus.
Some small atrial septal defects may require only monitoring or medications to reduce minor symptoms. Larger ASDs may need to be closed with either a catheter-based procedure or even surgery.
Heart surgery is an option to treat many heart conditions. You may need heart surgery either as a lifesaving procedure or when other treatments haven’t worked.
Minimally invasive heart surgery is used whenever possible to reduce risks and shorten recovery time after surgery to treat a variety of conditions.
Treatments for patent foramen ovales (PFO) and atrial septal defects (ASD) such as medication, closure devices and surgery, vary based on your symptoms and risk factors.