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Atrial Septal Defect Repair


What you need to know about an atrial septal defect (ASD) repair:

An ASD repair is surgery to close a hole in the septum (wall) between the upper chambers of your heart. The upper chambers are called the right atrium and the left atrium. An ASD repair is done through open heart surgery.

Other information you need to know before an ASD repair:

  • You will stay in the hospital for a few days after surgery. You may spend the first 1 to 2 nights in the intensive care unit (ICU). You may have several drains and IVs, and be on a ventilator after surgery. A ventilator is a machine that gives you oxygen and breathes for you when you cannot breathe well on your own. An endotracheal (ET) tube is put into your mouth or nose and attached to the ventilator. The ET tube may be removed when you are awake and breathing well. You may need a blood transfusion to replace blood that is lost during surgery.
  • Your face and body may look swollen right after surgery. The swelling should go down in a few days. You may have pain where the incision was made. You will get medicine to control pain and make you comfortable. It is normal to feel tired at first, and get stronger each day.
  • It may take you several weeks to recover from surgery. During this time you may need someone to help you with laundry, cooking, and activities of daily living (ADLs). ADLs include bathing, dressing, and grooming. Talk to your healthcare provider if you do not have someone to help you at home. Healthcare providers may be able to come to your home and help you with ADLs. You may not be able to drive for several weeks. You may want to arrange for someone to drive you to appointments and errands during this time.

Prepare for an ASD repair:

  • You may need blood tests, a chest x-ray, an EKG, or an echocardiogram before your surgery. You may need to stay in the hospital the night before surgery to complete these tests. The tests will help your healthcare provider plan for your surgery. They will also make sure you are ready for surgery. You may be able to donate your own blood before surgery. A family member or a friend with the same blood type as you may be able to donate blood for you.
  • Your healthcare provider may tell you not to eat or drink anything after midnight on the day of your surgery. He will tell you what medicines to take or not take on the day of your surgery. You will be given an antibiotic through your IV on the day of surgery. This will help prevent a bacterial infection. Tell the healthcare provider if you have ever had an allergic reaction to an antibiotic.

What will happen during an ASD repair:

  • You will be given general anesthesia to keep you asleep and free from pain during surgery. An IV may be placed in your wrist to monitor your blood pressure. A second IV may be placed in a large vein in your chest or neck to monitor pressures in your heart. Your healthcare provider will make an incision in your chest. He will cut or spread your ribcage apart to reach your heart. Your heart may be connected to a bypass machine. This machine pumps blood to your body and keeps blood out of your heart during surgery.
  • Your healthcare provider will make a second incision in your heart. He will close the ASD with stitches or a patch. The bypass machine will be stopped and blood will flow through your heart again. The incision in your heart will be closed with stitches. Your healthcare provider may place 1 or more drains in your chest to remove air, blood, or fluid. The incision in your chest will be closed with wire and stitches or staples. A bandage will be placed over the incision.

What will happen after an ASD repair:

Healthcare providers will monitor your blood pressure, heartbeat, oxygen levels, and breathing, closely. They will check your bandage for bleeding or swelling. Do not get out of bed until healthcare providers says it is okay. You may need blood tests, chest x-rays, an EKG, or an echocardiogram before you leave the hospital. These tests will make sure the ASD is closed and your heart is working correctly.

Risks of an ASD:

You may get an infection or bleed more than expected. Your heartbeat may become irregular or you may have heart failure. Your heart muscle or valves may be damaged during surgery. Fluid may collect around your heart or lungs and make it hard for you to breathe. You may get a blood clot in your leg, arm, heart, lungs, or brain. These problems can be life-threatening. The devices used to close the ASD may move out of place. You may need another surgery to fix this. Depending on the damage that your ASD has caused, your heart problems may not get better after repair.

Follow up with your healthcare provider as directed:

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.