Atrial septal defect (ASD)
Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a heart defect that is present at birth (congenital).
While the baby is in the womb, there is normally an opening between the upper chambers of the heart (atria) to allow blood to flow around the lungs. This opening usually closes around the time when
the baby is born. If the opening does not close, the hole is called an atrial septal defect, or ASD.
If the opening does not close, the hole is called an ASD and blood continues to flow between the two heart chambers. This is called a shunt. Pressure in the lungs may build up. Over time, there will be less oxygen in
the blood that goes to the body.
Small atrial septal defects often cause very few problems and may be discovered much later in life. Many problems can occur if the opening is large, or there is more than one opening.
ASD is not very common.
A person with no other heart defect, or a small defect (less than 5 millimeters) may not have symptoms, or the symptoms may not occur until middle age or later.
Symptoms that do occur may begin at any time after birth through childhood, and can include:
- Difficulty breathing (dyspnea)
- Frequent respiratory infections in children
- Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations) in adults
- Shortness of breath with activity
Exams and Tests
The doctor will check how large and severe an ASD is based on the symptoms, physical exam, and the results of heart tests.
An echocardiogram is a test that uses sound waves to create a moving picture of the heart. It is often the first test done.