Artial Septal Defect

Atrial septal defect is a hole in the heart

By Brandie Umar, Executive Director of ContentLast modified: March 07, 2011

Artial Septal Defect

A hole in the heart (atrial septal defect) is a congenital heart problem that is commonly identified at birth. Atrial septal defects (ASD) are commonly known as a heart murmur due to the sounds made when cardiologists listen to the beating heart through a stethoscope. The 'hole' is in the wall/septum of the heart that separates the right and left ventricle chambers.


A hole in the heart will often close by itself. Cardiologists will monitor the development of children born with ASDs, usually at twice yearly appointments. Holes in the heart normally close by the time a year is 5 years old.


Large atrial septal defects are operated on when the child is between 2-5 years old.  There are two methods of surgery a cardiologist can use to close the hole and repair the heart - a catheter procedure or open-heart surgery.


Catheter procedure for a hole in the heart:

Catheter surgery to repair holes in the heart is a technique that avoids open-heart surgery on children. The child is anesthetized before the procedure so will feel no discomfort. A catheter is inserted into a vein in the groin and passed through the vein to the heart. Once in position inside the heart, a small umbrella type device is passed through the catheter and into the hole in the heart. The umbrella is positioned so that it seals the hole. This surgery is effective and rarely needs repeating. The child's body is still developing and within 6 months tissue will have grown over the device and will hold it in position for life.


Open heart surgery for a hole in the heart

If the hole in your child's heart is too large to be closed using a catheter procedure, cardiologists will perform open heart surgery. Open heart surgery to correct a hole in the heart involves the cardiac surgeon placing a 'patch' over the hole or stitching the hole closed. Any problems with defective heart valves will be corrected at the same time with heart valve surgery.


Content on this page requires a newer version of Adobe Flash Player.

Get Adobe Flash player

Copyright © 2010 All rights reserved

This article was written by the medical research team at does not intend for any of the information on this site to be regarded as medical advice - it is meant as a starting point for understanding treatment details and options before contacting a registered, licensed doctor. We advise all patients to seek medical advice from a doctor.
View sources

© 2010 Medstar LLC. All rights reserved. Use of this site constitutes acceptance of' s terms of use and privacy policy.

The information on this site is not a substitute for diagnosis or treatment from a licensed medical practitioner. If you are experiencing a serious medical condition call your local emergency services or your doctor.