Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

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An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the septum (wall) separating the two upper chambers of your heart. It’s one of the most common causes of adult congenital heart disease. Atrial septal defects are often identified and repaired during childhood, but many people don’t develop symptoms of a septal defect until adulthood.


An adult who’s newly diagnosed with an atrial septal defect will often require either a surgical or catheter-based intervention to repair the defect.


In addition, an adult with a repaired atrial septal defect will need continued, specialized follow-up to monitor for additional long-term complications, such as arrhythmias.


Our Approach to Treating Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

If you are an adult who has just been diagnosed with an atrial septal defect, our interventional cardiologists and cardiovascular surgeons are experts in the catheter-based and open surgical techniques needed to repair your heart defect.


If you are an adult living with a repaired atrial septal defect, our heart experts specializing in managing congenital heart disease in adults offer lifelong care that can help you stay healthy and continue doing what you love.


Through our Adult Congenital Heart Program, you benefit from state-of-the-art technology and a team of heart specialists who work together to design a treatment and disease management plan that fits your unique condition and needs.


About Atrial Septal Defects (ASDs)

What Causes an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)?

An atrial septal defect is a heart defect present at birth. It causes recirculation of blood from the heart to the lungs, resulting in an enlargement of the right side of your heart.


Left unrepaired, an atrial septal defect can lead to:

What Are the Symptoms of an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)?

Adults with unrepaired atrial septal defect may develop one or more of the following symptoms:

  • Shortness of breath 
  • Fatigue 
  • Heart palpitations 
  • Lung infections 
  • Swelling of the legs, feet or abdomen

How Is an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) Diagnosed?

If an atrial septal defect is suspected, your doctor may evaluate you using one or more of the following:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Cardiac MRI
  • Cardiac catheterization
  • Electrocardiogram (ECG/EKG)
  • Pulse oximetry

How Is an Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) Treated?

In order to reduce symptoms and prevent further complications, adults often require surgery to repair an atrial septal defect. Depending on your specific condition, your heart specialist may recommend one of the following treatment options:

  • Cardiac catheterization – uses a thin catheter (tube) to thread tiny tools that can be used to close the defect
  • Open-heart surgery – allows surgeons to use patches or stitches to close the hole through an incision in the chest


Even following successful repair of an atrial septal defect, however, you may be at risk for developing complications. This means it’s important to follow up regularly with your primary cardiologist, as well as see an adult congenital heart specialist at least once a year.


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