There are many babies that are born with congenital disabilities. Some are curable, while others are deadly. There are different types of congenital defects which include atrial septal defects. It is a heart-related problem in which the children have a hole in the atrial septum.
A healthy human heart efficiently receives and pumps blood. The optimal flow of blood is essential for optimal human health because all organs, such as the heart, brain, and others, work with oxygen supply.
Do you want to know everything about the atrial septal defect, you are at the right place. This guide aims to discuss its main type, treatment, and prevention.
What is an atrial septal defect?
It is the hole in the lining that segregate your heart’s two upper chambers. It is a birth defect that happens when the septum, the lining of the heart, does not form properly. This condition is also simply known as a hole in the heart.
It leaves an unnecessary passage open for the blood to pass, which should not happen. In normal humans, oxygenated blood flows from the upper left chamber to the lower left chamber of the heart. Then it goes throughout the body to supply oxygen rich blood.
The atrial septal defect pushes some blood from the left atrium in an abnormal direction. The other section of the heart is occupied with oxygen poor blood that ultimately goes into the lungs to carry oxygen. Now this section has additional blood that ultimately reaches the lungs.
This abnormal leak can be minor and does not cause any health problems, but if it is left untreated, it leads to problems with the heart or lungs. The huge the hold is, the more it is likely to impact normal life and require immediate treatment.
What are the different types of ASD?
Mainly, atrial septal defects are classified into four types. They are determined according to the location of holes in the atrium.
Secundum ASD: In this condition, the hole is present right in the middle of the atrium septum. It is the commonly witnessed atrial septal defect.
Primum ASD: this type is quoted when the hole is present at the lower part of the segregation lining. Babies with this type of heart problem also face other heart defects, such as endocardial cushion defects, tricuspid valve defects, atrioventricular septal defects, mitral valve defects, etc. It is also known as down syndrome.
Sinus venosus ASD: it is another common type that is present in the lower or upper back part of the atrial septum. It is a kind of linked defect pulmonary vein of the right side, also known as the inferiors or superior vena cava.
Unroofed Coronary Sinus: This is the scarcest kind of atrial septal defect. This defect happens when the baby’s heart has a partially or entirely missing wall between the left atrium and the coronary sinus. It is generally also connected to another complex congenital heart disease.
How does an atrial septal defect affect a person’s body?
Minor ASD does not affect the body much, but larger holes can stain the right side of the heart. It is due to the fact that the heart’s right side has extra blood that it needs to pump out to your lungs. Moreover, this extra blood flow is likely to damage the blood vessels in your lungs.
The major problems with considerable atrial septal defect include:
If ASD is not treated for long, it can cause right heart enlargement.
It causes abnormal heart rhythm in the body. At least half of the adults with the atrial septal defect are dealing with arrhythmia.
ASD also leads to high blood pressure condition in the arteries that supply blood to your lungs.
It also leads to Eisenmenger syndrome. It is a condition that happens in people who have been dealing with severe pulmonary hypertension due to an atrial septal defect.
What are the symptoms of an ASD?
Although it is one of the congenital heart defects, many people do not notice or feel symptoms till they are fully grown. Minimal-sized ASD may not cause the problem because it does not stain the lungs or heart.
Symptoms in Children
Usually, children show no symptoms of ASD, but some have heart murmurs. Only doctors can notice it while listening to the heart with a stethoscope. However, in severe cases, the children show some symptoms, including:
Recurrent respiratory infection
Easily become fatigued while exercising
Abnormal heart rhythm
Faces trouble while breathing
If you notice any symptoms, make a shoe to enlighten the doctor about it. They may conduct some tests to ensure your baby is healthy or if there is any problem, they will begin immediate treatment.
Symptoms in Adults
Sometimes, people never know they have ASD till later age. Anyhow, the symptoms depend on the extent ASD or ventricular septal defect has strained the heart and lungs. It may include:
Shortness of breath
Swelling in legs and arms
Blue skin color
If you have these persistent symptoms, contact your healthcare providers right away. These symptoms indicate that untreated ASD requires immediate attention.
The exact causing factors of atrial septal defects are still unknown. However, birth defects are usually caused by genetic changes that happen before birth. This genetic mutation is considered a significant issue.
Anyhow, some lifestyle factors can also influence babies’ development causing ASD. These factors include:
Excessive smoking and tobacco use.
Taking particular prescription medications.
Generally, atrial septal defects’ symptoms are minor or untenable for normal human beings. However, through physical examination along with tests that check your heart structure as well as function.
Only a healthcare provider can figure out if something is wrong with your heart. To ensure the condition, your healthcare provider will run one or more tests. These tests include:
ECG or KEG: It is also known as electrocardiography which is used to check the heart’s electrical activity. It reveals that your heart has an arrhythmia or other problems related to the heart’s electrical system.
ICE: It is known as Intracardiac echocardiography. It is a kind of ultrasound that is taken inside your heart. A tiny camera is sent into your heart via the peripheral vein. This test is used to measure the size and shape of ASD and the blood flow direction. The test is usually applied during nonsurgical ASD repair.
Chest X-ray: This test is used to check if the right atrium or right ventricle is enlarged and affected. It is also used to show if your blood vessels or your lungs are affected.
TEE: it is a common test that includes an ultrasound taken through the esophagus. It determines the shape, size, and location of ASD. It is also useful in checking the valve of your heart. TEE is usually used for atrial septal defect surgery and percutaneous repair.
TTE: This test is used to determine the effect of blood flow on the heart. It elucidates how left ventricle to right flow of blood affects the heart as well as the details of pulmonary hypertension.
An atrial septal defect is a heart condition that can be solved with the help of surgery or without surgical methods. However, the type and the time of treatment depend on multiple factors, including:
The effect of AS on the heart
Type and size of the hole
The other factors such as hypertension in veins. Valve disease etc.
Small ASDs generally do not require treatment, but large holes need to be repaired if they are not showing any signs to prevent a threat to life and serious complications.
Once you have the signs of lung and heart damage, immediate treatment becomes inevitable. Therefore, the doctor will recommend treatment if:
There is significant blood exchange between both parts.
The right side is if your heart is bigger than usual.
Anyhow there are two types of treatment that help cope with ASD
Percutaneous Repair of ASD
The non-surgical repair of ASD utilizes a device to close the hole present in the atrial septum. The device is placed in place with the help of a long thin tube known as a catheter. The occlude is attached to the catheter, which is sent to your heart through veins.
When the doctors release the occlude from the catheter, it expands and closes the hole. With the passage of time, tissues grow, and occlude becomes part of the heart. Before the non-surgical methods, you will have cardiac catheterization to determine the location and size of ASD and the blood pressure in your heart.
After the treatment, the patient is suggested to take blood-thinning medications to avoid blood clotting on the device. The doctor will offer the right type of medication and tell you how long you are going to need it.
Surgical Treatment of ASD
This treatment is inevitable in the case of primary ASD, sinus venosus ASD, and coronary sinus defects. However, these are rare kinds of defects that require treatment by senior cardiac surgeons with specialization in dealing with congenital heart defect. Minimally invasive surgery or robotic-assisted surgery is the right option for you.
The surgical treatment usually involves utilizing a tissue patch to close ASD, which is taken from your own heart membrane. Anyhow, the secundum ASDs is surgically closed with just sutures.
A small-sized atrial septal defect or ventricular septum defect does not cause any problem, but medium and large-sized holes are life-threatening. The complications of ASD include:
If the hole in the heart is large or even medium-sized, the heart needs to work faster, and the lungs will have a large supply of mixed blood. If it is left untreated, it leads to heart failure and, ultimately, death.
It is a condition that can develop if ASD is left untreated. The irregular blood flowing makes the blood vessels stiff and thinner. It causes the blood pressure to rise significantly in lung arteries leading to permanent damage to arteries.
It is a rare complication of the atrial septal defect. It is an infection that causes dangerous inflammation in the heart’s chamber’s inner lining and valves.
Other Heart Problem
The complication of ASD is not limited. It also includes valve disease and abnormal heart rhythms.
As the ASDs and ventricular septal defects cause is unclear, it is impossible to prevent it. However, optimal parental care is necessary. If you are dealing with ASD, here are some preventions that you need to follow for a lifetime to avoid complications:
Take a Multivitamin
Talk to a doctor and take multivitamins such as folic acid daily to reduce the possibility of congenital disabilities in the spinal cord and brain. It is also beneficial in reducing heart defects as well.
Discuss the Current Condition with Doctor
Seeking professional assistance is the best method to avoid Atrial Septal Defects. The doctor will ask to monitor a few health conditions, such as lupus, diabetes, blood pressure, etc. Your healthcare provider will adjust medicine or suggest stopping certain drugs during pregnancy.
Do not consume excessive and often alcohol.
Quitting smoking ensures optimal lung health and prevents blood thickening, leading to heart attacks and other heart problems. It also avoids the expected complications of ASD.
Keep Diabetes Under Control
As a mother, you can also keep diabetes under control. It will minimize the risk of birth defects.
ASD is a common form of birth defect. The major cause is still unknown, but genetics surely have an influence on this congenital defect. Sometimes the poor lifestyle of mothers during pregnancy also causes ASD.
Anyhow, whether it is small or severe, it is curable through surgical or non-surgical methods if it is diagnosed at the right time. In case you feel any symptoms contact your doctor, and he will recommend some tests to ensure your baby’s well-being.
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