What is a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)?
A VSD is a hole in the wall that separates the two lower chambers, called ventricles, of the heart. A VSD is one of the most common congenital (that is, seen from birth) cardiac defects, and can occur either by itself or in combination with other congenital defects.
What causes VSD?
The exact cause of VSD is not known. Early in pregnancy, a baby’s heart ventricles are not separated; it is as the baby grows in the mother’s womb that a septum (or wall) is formed to divide the ventricles. When the formation of this septum is incomplete, VSD results.
In most children, VSD is associated with a genetic disorder like Down’s syndrome. VSD is rare in adults, but if present it is serious, and may occur after a heart attack.
What are the symptoms?
Children with small defects may not have any symptoms. However, if the defect is large, the following symptoms may be observed:
- Difficulty breathing
- Increased heartbeat
- Poor feeding
- Failure to gain weight
- Increased tiredness, easy fatigability
- Recurrent respiratory infection
What medical tests help diagnose VSD?
- Complete physical examination, listening for abnormal heart sounds (murmurs)
- Electrocardiogram (ECG)
- Echocardiogram (Echo)
- Cardiac catheterization
What is the treatment?
- Small VSDs often close on their own; nonetheless, once any size of VSD is diagnosed, regular follow-up with the physician/cardiologist is required.
- If the VSD is large, the patient may undergo either open heart surgery (intra-cardiac repair) for ventricular septal defect closure, or a transcatheter ventricular septal defect closure.
When should I consult my doctor?
- If your child gets tired easily while playing or eating
- If you feel your child breathes rapidly and/or has breathing difficulty
- If your child is not gaining weight
- If your child develops recurrent attacks of cough, cold and fever (respiratory infection)
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