Some children are born with a hole in their heart called atrial septal defect. ASD can be repaired, though not all children require treatment. Treatments vary depending on the type defect, a child’s age and health.
What Is ASD?
ASD is a congenital heart defect that allows blood to flow between the upper chambers, called the atria, of the heart. The atria is normally separated by a wall called the interatrial septum. ASD may have no noticeable symptoms, or it may lead to abnormally low oxygen levels in blood.
About 50 percent of heart holes caused by ASD close on their own within a child’s first few years. If your baby is diagnosed with ASD, his pediatrician may recommend monitoring his heart during routine checkups.
ASD may also be treated with catheterization or surgery. Both procedures will close the hole in the heart. If hole doesn’t close on its own, his doctor may recommend one of these treatments
A catheter procedure can be used to close secundum ASDs, the most common type of ASD. Under general anesthesia, the doctor inserts a catheter, a thin tube, through a vein in the patient’s thigh.
The tube, carrying a device to repair the hole, is threaded to the heart. The device is pushed from the tube and secured in place to plug the hole. An echocardiography is often used to help doctors guide the catheter to the heart.
Tissue grows within a few months in and around the device. Children recover faster from this procedure than from surgery. The success rate for this catherization is high: 90 percent of patients experience no major leakages.
In some cases, an ASD is too large for catheter repair and surgery is needed. Primum or sinus venosus ASDs are often repaired with surgery. Under general anesthesia, a surgeon will make an incision in the patient’s chest. The surgeon then repairs the heart with a patch while a bypass machine pumps the patient’s blood.
Children who have ASD surgery may spend several days in the hospital before going home to recover. Success rates are excellent. Complications are relatively rare. The lining of the heart may become inflamed. The condition, called pericarditis, causes fluid to accumulate after surgery around the heart. Pericarditis is treated with medications.
During recovery, care must be taken to limit activity while the surgical incision heals. However, after recovery, a child can resume his normal activities.
The doctors at Pediatric Cardiology Center of Oregon have been caring for those with congenital heart disease since 1986. Contact us for information about our pediatric heart program.