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Ventricular Septal Defect in Children


What is a ventricular septal defect?

A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a common kind of heart defect. With VSD, there is an opening between the two lower chambers (ventricles) of your child's heart. 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

What are the signs and symptoms of a VSD?

Your child may not have any signs and symptoms if the opening is small. The most common sign of a VSD is a heart murmur. He may also have any of the follow signs and symptoms:

  • Sweating, especially after eating
  • Difficulty breathing or a fast heart rate
  • Pale skin or blue lips and fingernails
  • Poor weight gain
  • Easily fatigued

How is a VSD diagnosed?

Your child's healthcare provider will listen to your child's heart for a murmur. Your child may also need any of the following:

  • A pulse oximeter measures the amount of oxygen in your child's blood.
  • A chest x-ray is taken to look at your child's heart and lungs.
  • An EKG test records your child's heart rhythm and how fast his heart beats.
  • An echocardiogram is a type of ultrasound. Sound waves are used to show the structure and function of your child's heart.
  • Cardiac catheterization is a procedure to look at your child's heart or measure pressure in his heart. Your child's healthcare provider will insert a catheter into a blood vessel in his arm, leg, or neck. Contrast dye may be given to help healthcare providers see your child's heart and blood vessels better. Tell your child's healthcare provider if he has ever had an allergic reaction to contrast dye.

How is a VSD treated?

Your child's healthcare provider may recommend that he have frequent tests and regular 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 heart beat stronger or more regularly.
  • 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.

When should I contact my child's healthcare provider?

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

When should I seek immediate care or call 911?

  • Your child has sudden trouble breathing.
  • Your child has weakness or numbness in an arm, leg, or on his face.
  • Your child's lips or fingernails are blue or pale.
  • Your child coughs up blood.

Care Agreement

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 healthcare providers to decide what care you want for your child. 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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Further information

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