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Atrial Septal Defect In Children

What is an atrial septal defect?

An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the septum (wall) between the upper chambers of your child's heart. The hole may be small or large. An ASD is a common heart defect that babies may be born with. It prevents blood from flowing through your child's heart in a normal way. His heart works harder to pump blood. Over time, an ASD can damage your child's heart and lungs.

What causes an ASD?

The cause is not known. Your child has a higher risk for an ASD if his mother had rubella early in her pregnancy. His risk is also higher if he was born too early or has a family history of ASD.

What are the signs and symptoms of an ASD?

Most children do not have any symptoms, even if the ASD is large. Many children start having symptoms when they get older. The signs and symptoms of ASD may include any of the following:

  • Heart murmur (extra sound) when caregivers listen to your child's heartbeat

  • Lips and fingernails that turn blue with prolonged crying

  • Shortness of breath during physical activities

  • Slow growth or problems gaining weight

  • Tiring easily, or seeming more tired than usual

How is an ASD diagnosed?

  • A chest x-ray can show if the right side of your child's heart is larger than the left.

  • A Doppler test is done to check blood flow in your child's heart. Caregivers may hear abnormal sounds if your child has an ASD.

  • An echocardiogram uses sound waves to show pictures of the size and shape of your child's heart. The echo can also show how well the heart is pumping and how well blood flows through it.

  • An EKG records the electrical activity of your child's heart. It helps caregivers look for changes or problems in different areas of the heart.

How is an ASD treated?

Your child may not need any treatment if the ASD is small and he does not have any symptoms. A small ASD may close on its own within the first year of life. Your child may need any of the following:

  • Heart medicine makes your child's heart beat more regularly.

  • Open heart surgery may be needed to close the ASD with stitches, a patch, or a piece of your child's heart tissue.

  • Cardiac catheterization is a procedure that is used to place a patch or plug on the hole through a catheter (thin tube). The catheter is placed into an artery in your child's groin and guided up to his heart.

When should I contact my child's caregiver?

Contact your child's caregiver if:

  • Your child has a fever.

  • Your child has chills, a cough, or feels weak and achy.

  • Your child is not gaining weight as he should.

  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.

When should I seek immediate care?

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • Your child has sudden shortness of breath.

  • Your child's lips or nailbeds turn blue or white.

  • Your child has any of the following signs of a stroke:

    • Part of his face droops or is numb

    • Weakness in an arm or leg

    • Confusion or difficulty speaking

    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss

Care Agreement

You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child. The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

© 2014 Truven Health Analytics Inc. Information is for End User's use only and may not be sold, redistributed or otherwise used for commercial purposes. All illustrations and images included in CareNotes® are the copyrighted property of A.D.A.M., Inc. or Truven Health Analytics.

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