What is ventricular septal defect?

Ventricular septal defect in children: Overview

The heart is a muscular pump that has four chambers. A ventricular septal defect is an opening in the wall between the lower chambers of the heart. It is a type of congenital heart disease, which means that your child was born with it.

When this problem is present, some of the blood may flow from one side of the heart through the opening to the other side. This can make the heart pump too much blood to the lungs and not enough to the rest of the body.

A very small opening may not cause problems. Small openings sometimes close on their own.

A larger hole may damage the lungs and weaken the heart over time. You and your child's doctor can decide if a procedure to close the hole is right for your child.

Ventricular septal defect

Ventricular septal defect (VSD), a heart problem that develops before birth (congenital), is an opening in the wall that separates the lower chambers of the heart. Most ventricular septal defects are small and do not cause a problem.

A large, untreated ventricular septal defect may result in the lower left heart chamber's inability to pump enough blood to the body and too much blood going to the lungs.

Treatment is not needed in cases where a ventricular septal defect is small or closes on its own. Surgery or a catheter procedure may be done to close the hole.

What are the symptoms of a severe ventricular septal defect in newborns?

If the hole is large and the heart has to work too hard, a baby may have symptoms, such as:

  • Fast breathing.
  • Sweating while feeding.
  • Not eating well.
  • Trouble gaining weight.

What can you expect if your newborn has a severe ventricular septal defect?

  • If your baby has trouble breathing, the doctor may use a ventilator. This machine helps your baby breathe. To use the machine, the doctor puts a soft tube through your baby's mouth into the windpipe.
  • The hospital staff will give your baby the nutrition that your baby needs. The doctor may feed your baby through a soft tube that goes through the nose and into the stomach. Or the doctor may use an I.V. that goes through the belly button to do this.
  • Your baby may need oxygen. It is given to the baby through a tube in the nose or throat.
  • Your baby will be kept comfortable and warm.
  • It may seem that your baby is getting lots of tests. All of these tests help your doctor keep track of your baby's condition and give the best treatment possible.
  • After treatment, your baby will need routine checkups to check the heart.
  • It's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about your baby's condition. Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies with this condition. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, ask for support from friends and family. You can also ask the hospital staff about counseling and support.

How is a severe ventricular septal defect in newborns diagnosed?

Your doctor may hear abnormal heart sounds, such as a heart murmur, when examining your newborn.

Your doctor will order tests to find the cause of abnormal sounds or of symptoms. The most common test used to diagnose this problem is called an echocardiogram, or "echo" for short. It uses sound waves to make an image of your baby's heart.

Your baby may have other tests to find the problem, such as an EKG (electrocardiogram) or a chest X-ray. Another test may look at the amount of oxygen in the blood.

A fetal ultrasound, which looks at the baby's heart, may find this problem before birth.

How can you care for your infant who has a ventricular septal defect?

If your doctor prescribes medicines, give them as instructed. Help your baby eat enough. Watch for symptoms that may mean there's a problem, such as fast breathing, trouble with feeding, or not gaining weight. Make sure that your child gets all recommended vaccines. And keep your baby away from smoke.

What is a severe ventricular septal defect in a newborn?

A ventricular septal defect is a type of congenital heart disease. Congenital heart disease refers to heart problems a baby is born with. These heart problems are usually diagnosed at or before birth.

The heart is a muscular pump with four chambers. The two bottom chambers—the left ventricle and the right ventricle—are separated by a wall of tissue called a septum. A ventricular septal defect is a hole in this wall.

A very small hole may not cause problems. It may close on its own.

When the hole is large, some of the blood may flow through it from the left ventricle to the right ventricle. So the heart may pump too much blood to the lungs. Over time, this can damage the lungs and weaken the heart.

Your baby may need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. The hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

Ventricular septal defect in infants: When to call

Call 911 anytime you think your baby may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your baby passes out (loses consciousness).

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby has trouble breathing.
  • Your baby has trouble eating or feeding.

Watch closely for changes in your baby's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • Your baby has any problems.
  • Your baby is not growing as expected.

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The content above contains general health information provided by Healthwise, Incorporated, and reviewed by its medical experts. This content should not replace the advice of your healthcare provider. Not all treatments or services described are offered as services by us. For recommended treatments, please consult your healthcare provider.