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Atrial Septal Defect in Children

WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW:

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 or her heart work harder to pump blood. Over time, an ASD can damage your child's heart and lungs. An ASD can also lead to a stroke if a blood clot is pumped out to a blood vessel in your child's brain.

Atrial Septal Defect

DISCHARGE INSTRUCTIONS:

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) 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 or her 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 or her legs or ankles.
  • Your child has severe abdominal pain or his or her abdomen is larger than usual.

Call 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 or she should.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's 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

Medicines:

Your child may need any of the following:

  • Medicines may be given to control your child's heartbeat or decrease stress on his or her heart. Medicines may also be given to lower pressure in your child's lungs.
  • Blood thinners may be given to prevent blood clots. This medicine may make your child bleed or bruise more easily.
  • Diuretics help remove extra fluid from your child's body. Your child may urinate more than usual while he or she is taking this medicine.
  • 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 or her activity. Your child may need to avoid strenuous activities to decrease his or her 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 or her heart.
  • Ask about vaccines your child needs. Vaccines help decrease your child's risk for infections. Infections can make your child's condition worse. The influenza (flu) vaccine is given yearly, starting at age 6 months. Your child's healthcare provider will tell you which vaccines your child needs and when to get them.
    Immunization Schedule

Follow up with your child's cardiologist as directed:

Your child will need to return for more tests to see if the ASD closes on its own. 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.

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