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Atrial Septal Defect In Children


An atrial septal defect (ASD)

is a hole in the septum (wall) between the upper chambers (atria) of your child's heart. The hole may be small or large. An ASD causes a problem with the way blood moves through your child's heart. This makes his heart work harder to pump blood. Over time, an ASD can damage your child's heart and lungs.

Atrial Septal Defect

Common signs and symptoms of ASD:

Your child may not have any symptoms, even if the ASD is large. Instead, your child may start having symptoms when he gets older. He may have any of the following:

  • Feeling his heartbeat skip or flutter in his chest
  • Frequent colds or lung infections
  • Chest pain
  • Lips and fingernails that turn blue with long periods of crying
  • Shortness of breath that is worse during activity
  • Slow growth or problems gaining weight
  • Tiring easily, especially during feedings

Call 911 for any of the following:

  • Your child has severe chest pain.
  • Your child has trouble breathing or sudden shortness of breath.
  • Your child coughs up blood.
  • Your child loses consciousness or stops breathing.
  • 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

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child is more short of breath than usual.
  • Your child's heart is beating faster than usual.
  • Your child has swelling in his legs or ankles.
  • Your child has severe abdominal pain or his abdomen is larger than usual.

Contact your child's cardiologist 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.


may depend on your child's symptoms and the size of the ASD. A small ASD may close on its own within the first year of life. Medicine may be given to strengthen your child's heart or control his heartbeat. Medicine may also be given to lower pressure in your child's lungs, prevent blood clots, or remove extra fluid. Surgery or a cardiac catheterization may be needed if your child's symptoms get worse. These procedures can close the ASD with stitches, a patch, or a plug.

  • Give your child's medicine as directed. Contact your child's healthcare provider if you think the medicine is not working as expected. Tell him or her if your child is allergic to any medicine. Keep a current list of the medicines, vitamins, and herbs your child takes. Include the amounts, and when, how, and why they are taken. Bring the list or the medicines in their containers to follow-up visits. Carry your child's medicine list with you in case of an emergency.

Care for your child:

  • Do not smoke near your child. Do not let your older child smoke. Nicotine and other chemicals in cigarettes and cigars can cause lung and heart damage. Ask your healthcare provider for information if you or your older child currently smoke and need help to quit. E-cigarettes or smokeless tobacco still contain nicotine. Talk to your healthcare provider before you or your older child use these products.
  • Feed your child heart-healthy foods. Feed your child more fresh fruits and vegetables. Feed him 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 your child's healthcare provider if you need to limit his activity. Your child may need to avoid strenuous activities to decrease his symptoms. Examples include running, lifting, and swimming. Your child may also need to avoid scuba diving or hiking in high altitudes. These activities may put too much stress on his heart.
  • Get your child vaccinated. Vaccines help decrease your child's risk for infections. Infections can make your child's condition worse. Ask your child's healthcare provider for a vaccine schedule.

Follow up with your child's cardiologist as directed:

Your child will need to return for more tests. Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your child's 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.