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Atrial Septal Defect

AMBULATORY CARE:

An atrial septal defect (ASD)

is a hole in the septum (wall) between the upper chambers of your heart. The hole may be small or large. An ASD causes a problem with the way blood moves through your heart. This makes your heart work harder to pump blood. Over time, an ASD can damage your heart and lungs. An ASD can also lead to a stroke if a blood clot is pumped out to a blood vessel in your brain.

Atrial Septal Defect

Common signs and symptoms of an ASD:

You may not have symptoms if your ASD is very small. If you do have symptoms, they may not appear until you are age 20 older. You may have any of the following:

  • Not having any energy, or feeling very tired (fatigue)
  • Feeling your heart skip a beat or flutter
  • Shortness of breath that is worse during exercise
  • Lips and fingernails turn blue with activity
  • Colds or lung infections that happen often
  • Chest pain

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • You have any of the following signs of a heart attack:
    • Squeezing, pressure, or pain in your chest
    • You may also have any of the following:
      • Discomfort or pain in your back, neck, jaw, stomach, or arm
      • Shortness of breath
      • Nausea or vomiting
      • Lightheadedness or a sudden cold sweat
  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Numbness or drooping on one side of your face
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • You cough up blood.

Seek care immediately if:

  • You are short of breath at rest or more short of breath than usual during exercise.
  • Your lips or fingers are blue or white at rest.
  • Your heart is beating faster than usual or fluttering more than usual.
  • You feel dizzy or faint.
  • You have swelling in your legs or ankles.
  • You have severe abdominal pain or your abdomen is larger than usual.

Call your cardiologist if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • You feel depressed.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Warning signs of a stroke:

The word F.A.S.T. can help you remember and recognize warning signs of a stroke.

  • F = Face: One side of the face droops.
  • A = Arms: One arm starts to drop when both arms are raised.
  • S = Speech: Speech is slurred or sounds different than usual.
  • T = Time: A person who is having a stroke needs to be seen immediately. A stroke is a medical emergency that needs immediate treatment. Most medicines and treatments work best the sooner they are given.
BE FAST SIGNS OF A STROKE

Treatment

may depend on your symptoms and the size of your ASD.

  • Surgery or a cardiac catheterization may be needed if your symptoms get worse. These procedures can be used to close the ASD with stitches, a patch, or a plug.
  • Medicines may be given to control your heartbeat or decrease stress on your heart. Medicine may also be given to lower pressure in your lungs, prevent blood clots, or remove extra fluid.

Self-care:

  • Maintain a healthy weight. Being overweight can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease. These conditions can make your symptoms worse. Ask your healthcare provider what a healthy weight is for you. Ask him or her to help you create a weight loss plan if you are overweight.
  • Do not smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung and heart damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you use these products.
  • Do not drink alcohol. Alcohol can increase your risk for high blood pressure, diabetes, and coronary artery disease.
  • Eat heart-healthy foods and limit sodium (salt). Eat more fresh fruits and vegetables. Eat fewer canned and processed foods. Replace butter and margarine with heart-healthy oils such as olive oil and canola oil. Other heart-healthy foods include walnuts, whole-grain breads, low-fat dairy products, beans, and lean meats. Fatty fish such as salmon and tuna are also heart healthy. Ask how much salt you can eat each day.

  • Ask your healthcare provider if you need to limit your activity. You may need to avoid strenuous activities to decrease symptoms. Examples include running, weightlifting, and swimming. You may also need to avoid scuba diving or hiking in high altitudes. These activities may put too much stress on your heart.
  • Ask your healthcare provider about vaccines. Vaccines can help prevent infection. Infection can make your condition worse. Get a flu vaccine each year as soon as recommended, usually in September or October. Your provider may also recommend a pneumonia vaccine. He or she can tell you if you need other vaccines, and when to get them.
  • Talk to your healthcare provider about pregnancy. If you are a woman and want to get pregnant, talk to your healthcare provider. Pregnancy may increase your or your baby's risk for problems.

Follow up with your cardiologist as directed:

You will need to return for blood tests and other tests. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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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.

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