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Atrial Septal Defect


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

Atrial Septal Defect



  • Blood thinners may be given to help prevent blood clots. Clots can cause strokes or heart attacks, and can be life-threatening. Blood thinners make it more likely for you to bleed or bruise. Follow these and other safety precautions you receive:
    • Watch for bleeding from your gums or nose. Watch for blood in your urine and bowel movements. Use a soft washcloth on your skin and a soft toothbrush on your teeth to keep your skin and gums from bleeding. If you shave, use an electric shaver. Do not play contact sports, such as football.
    • Many medicines cannot be used with blood thinners. Tell your dentist and other healthcare providers that you take blood-thinning medicine. Wear or carry medical alert information that says you are taking this medicine.
    • Tell your healthcare provider right away if you forget to take the medicine, or if you take too much. You will need to have a blood test called the INR regularly. The INR shows how long it takes your blood to clot. Your healthcare provider will use the INR results to decide how much medicine is right for you.
    • Talk to your healthcare provider about the foods you eat. This medicine works best when you eat about the same amount of vitamin K every day. Vitamin K is found mainly in green leafy vegetables. Ask your dietitian or healthcare provider for a list of foods that are high in vitamin K.

  • Heart medicine helps your heart beat more regularly.
  • Take your medicine as directed. Contact your healthcare provider if you think your medicine is not helping or if you have side effects. Tell him if you are allergic to any medicine. Keep a list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs you take. Include the amounts, and when and why you take them. Bring the list or the pill bottles to follow-up visits. Carry your medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.


If you have symptoms, you may feel like resting more. Rest as often as you need to. If you are short of breath or feel tired, you may not be able to do heavy exercise or sports. Talk to your healthcare provider before you start exercising. Together you can plan the best exercise program for you. It is best to start slowly and do more as you feel stronger.

Do not smoke:

Smoking damages your heart and lungs. If you smoke, it is never too late to quit. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you need help quitting.

Contact your healthcare provider if:

  • You have a fever.
  • You have chills, a cough, or feel weak and achy.
  • Your ASD symptoms get worse.
  • You feel your heartbeat is not regular.
  • You have questions or concerns about your condition or care.

Seek care immediately or call 911 if:

  • You feel lightheaded, short of breath, and have chest pain.
  • You cough up blood.
  • You have any of the following signs of a stroke:
    • Part of your face droops or is numb
    • Weakness in an arm or leg
    • Confusion or difficulty speaking
    • Dizziness, a severe headache, or vision loss
  • The skin between your ribs is being sucked in with each breath.
  • Your lips or nailbeds are blue or white.

© 2015 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.

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.