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Atrial Septal Defect Surgical Repair in Children


Atrial septal defect (ASD) surgery is done to close a hole in the septum (wall) between the upper chambers of your child's heart. The upper chambers are called the right atrium and the left atrium.


Before your child's surgery:

  • Informed consent is a legal document that explains the tests, treatments, or procedures that your child may need. Informed consent means you understand what will be done and can make decisions about what you want. You give your permission when you sign the consent form. You can have someone sign this form for you if you are not able to sign it. You have the right to understand your child's medical care in words you know. Before you sign the consent form, understand the risks and benefits of what will be done to your child. Make sure all of your questions are answered.
  • An IV is a small tube placed in your child's vein. Caregivers use the IV to give your child medicine or liquids.
  • General anesthesia is medicine to keep your child asleep and free from pain during the surgery. Caregivers may give your child anesthesia through his IV. Your child may breathe it in through a mask or a tube placed down his throat. The tube may cause your child to have a sore throat when he wakes up.
  • A Foley catheter is a tube that is put into your child's bladder to drain his urine into a bag. It is usually taken out shortly after the surgery.

During your child's surgery:

Your child will be connected to a heart-lung machine that does the work of his heart and lungs during surgery. An incision will be made in your child's chest. Another incision will be made in the right atrium. The hole in the septum with stitches, or a patch will be sewn over it. The patch may be a man-made material or a piece of heart tissue taken from the outside of the heart. The heart-lung machine will be stopped and your child's own heart and lungs will start working again. The incision in your child's chest will be closed with wire and stitches or staples.

After your child's surgery:

Your child will be taken to a room to rest until he is fully awake. Caregivers will monitor your child closely for any problems. A bandage will be used to cover his stitches or staples. This bandage keeps the area clean and dry to prevent infection. A caregiver may remove the dressing shortly after surgery to check the incision. Do not let your child get out of bed until caregivers say it is okay. When the caregiver sees that your child is okay, he will be taken to his hospital room.

  • Chest tubes may be put into your child's chest during surgery. They remove air, blood, or fluid from around the lungs.
  • Deep breathing and coughing will decrease your child's risk of a lung infection. Your child's caregiver will tell you how often he should do this.
    • Your child should hold a pillow tightly against his incision when he coughs. This may help decrease the pain. Your child should take a deep breath and hold it as long as he can. Then he should push the air out of his lungs with a deep strong cough. Help your child remember to follow each deep breath with a cough.
    • Your child may be asked to use an incentive spirometer. This helps him take deeper breaths. Your child should put the plastic piece into his mouth and take a deep breath. Your child should hold his breath as long as he can. Then he will let his breath out.
  • Your child will be able to eat and drink gradually after surgery. He will begin with ice chips or clear liquids such as water, broth, juice, and clear soft drinks. If his stomach does not become upset, he may then eat soft foods, such as ice cream and applesauce. Once he can eat soft foods easily, he may slowly begin to eat solid foods.
  • Medicines:
    • Pain medicine helps decrease your child's pain. Do not wait until his pain is severe before you ask for more medicine.
    • Antinausea medicine calms your child's stomach and prevents vomiting.
    • Antibiotics help treat or prevent an infection.
    • Diuretics help get rid of extra fluid that collects in a part of your child's body, such as his heart or lungs. Diuretics may make your child urinate more often.
    • Heart medicine helps your child's heart beat strongly and regularly.


Your child may bleed more than expected, get an infection, or have trouble breathing. Blood clots or air bubbles in your child's blood could cause a stroke. The heart muscle or valves could be damaged. Your child could have problems with his heartbeat or he could have a heart attack. Without surgery, your child's symptoms like shortness of breath could get worse. Blood and fluid could build up in your child's lungs and he may develop heart failure.


You have the right to help plan your child's care. Learn about your child's health condition and how it may be treated. Discuss treatment options with your child's caregivers to decide what care you want for your child.

Learn more about Atrial Septal Defect Surgical Repair in Children (Inpatient Care)

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Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.