Atrial septal defects (ASDs) and ventricular septal defects (VSDs) are holes in the walls between the heart’s upper or lower chambers. At Duke, the top-ranked program in North Carolina for pediatric heart care and heart surgery, our pediatric heart experts work to ensure your child’s septal defect is closed at the right time and with the least-invasive methods possible so your child can thrive.
About Septal Defects
Atrial and ventricular septal defects are common congenital heart defects, meaning they are present at birth, and their cause is unknown. Left unchecked, large ASDs and VSDs allow oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix, which can lead to dangerously high pressure in the heart and lungs and reduced oxygen to the body.
Since the ventricles (the lower chambers of the heart) are responsible for the pumping action of the heart, VSDs are under a lot of pressure and usually need to be repaired within a child’s first year of life. There is less pressure in the atria (the upper chambers of the heart), so ASDs may not need to be repaired right away but usually before a child’s fifth birthday.
Duke Health offers locations throughout the Triangle. Find one near you.
Septal defects are typically discovered after birth when your child’s doctor notices a heart murmur during a routine exam. Other common symptoms in infants include shortness of breath, sweating or tiredness while feeding, and poor weight gain. However, ASDs and VSDs can go unnoticed for decades.
If a septal defect is suspected, your child will be referred to a pediatric cardiologist for additional testing -- usually an echocardiogram. This specialized ultrasound shows the structure and function of your child’s heart and can help doctors identify the location and size of the hole and how much blood is flowing through it.
Why Choose Duke
Minimally Invasive Options
Compared with traditional surgery, less-invasive catheterization procedures leave smaller scars and speed recovery, so your child can get back to growing and learning faster. Choosing a center with a high-quality pediatric heart program like Duke’s means your child could be eligible for procedures that may not be available elsewhere.
Recognized for Excellence
Duke Children’s Hospital is verified as a Level I Children's Surgery Center by the American College of Surgeons. This Level I designation recognizes our commitment to providing the safest and highest-quality surgical care to our young patients.
Specialized Intensive Care
Our Pediatric Cardiac Intensive Care Unit (PCICU) is one of only two in the state. The unit is staffed by physicians with specific training in critical and heart care. Our Neonatal Intensive Care Unit (NICU) has a Level IV designation, indicating we provide the highest level of care for critically ill infants.
Our family-centered care includes support groups, wellness programs, and education for siblings to help them understand what is happening to their brother or sister. We have a Ronald McDonald House Family Room that offers amenities to make your family’s stay as comfortable as possible.
Duke Children's Hospital & Health Center is proud to be nationally ranked in nine pediatric specialties.