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Ventricular Septal Defect in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Dec 2, 2022.


A ventricular septal defect (VSD)

is a common kind of heart defect. An opening between the 2 lower chambers (ventricles) of your child's heart stays open. Normally, this opening closes before a baby is born. A VSD can cause blood to flow back into the right side of the heart instead of to the rest of your child's body. A VSD can lead to heart or lung problems or to low oxygen levels in your child's blood.

Ventricular Septal Defect

Common signs and symptoms:

Your child may not have any signs and symptoms if the opening is small. The following are common signs and symptoms that may develop:

  • A heart murmur (abnormal sound)
  • Sweating, especially after eating
  • Trouble breathing, fast breathing, or a fast heart rate
  • Pale skin or blue lips and fingernails
  • Poor weight gain or failure to thrive
  • Easily fatigued

Call your local emergency number (911 in the US) for any of the following:

  • Your child has sudden trouble breathing.
  • Your child has weakness or numbness in an arm, leg, or on his or her face.

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child's lips or fingernails are blue or pale.
  • Your child coughs up blood.

Call your child's doctor if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child has chills, a cough, or feels weak and achy.
  • Your child has swelling in his or her arms or legs.
  • You have questions or concerns about your child's condition or care.


Your child's healthcare provider may recommend that he or she have regular tests and follow-up visits to see if the opening closes. Your child may also need any of the following:

  • Medicines help your child's body get rid of extra fluid, which can help your child breathe easier. Your child may also need medicine to help his or her heart beat more strongly or more regularly.
  • A nasogastric (NG) tube may be needed if your baby has trouble feeding. An NG tube is used to give liquid nutrition and medicine. The tube is put into your baby's nose and guided down into his or her stomach.
  • Respiratory support includes oxygen, an endotracheal (ET) tube, or a ventilator. These can help your child breathe.
  • Surgery may be needed to close the VSD in your child's heart. Surgery may be done as open heart surgery. It may also be done by inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in your child's groin. A small device will be inserted through the catheter to close the VSD.

Care for your child:

  • Let your child rest as needed. Depending on his or her symptoms, your child may need to rest more than other children his or her age. Your child's healthcare provider may also recommend limiting certain activities.
  • Keep your child's teeth and gums healthy. This can help reduce the risk for an infection in his or her heart. Have your child see his or her dentist regularly.
  • Do not let anyone smoke around your child. Smoke makes breathing difficult for your child. Smoke can also harm his or her lungs and heart.
  • Ask about the flu and pneumonia vaccines. The flu or pneumonia can make your child's symptoms worse. Have your child get a flu vaccine every year as soon as recommended, usually in September or October. Your child's provider can tell you if he or she should get the pneumonia vaccine, and when to get it.
    Recommended Immunization Schedule 2022

Follow up with your child's doctor 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.

Further information

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