All children are born with an opening in the wall (septum) that separates the upper chambers of the heart (atria). After birth, this hole should close. If the hole fails to close, it’s known as an atrial septal defect (ASD) and can present serious health complications later in life.
Risks and Symptoms of ASD
About 1 in every 1,859 babies born in the U.S. have ASD, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). If the hole is small enough, it may never present health issues. In fact, many adults with small ASDs never show symptoms.
However, if the ASD is large enough, it may allow increased blood flow to the lungs, placing too much strain on the heart and possibly damaging blood vessels. Left untreated into adulthood, large ASDs can cause high blood pressure, stroke, or heart failure.
Symptoms of ASD include the following.
- Shortness of breath
- Swelling of the belly, legs, or feet
- Arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat)
- Heart palpitations
- Heart murmur
If your Bayhealth physician determines you’re suffering from ASD, surgical intervention may be necessary. Speak to a Bayhealth heart and vascular expert to discuss treatment options.
How We Diagnose ASD
Our heart and vascular experts use the following procedures to identify ASD.
- Electrocardiogram (EKG): Electrical pulses generated by your heart are measured and evaluated to determine if any heart problems exist.
- Chest X-ray: This imaging test can detect fluid buildup in or around the heart, as well as other abnormalities such as an enlarged heart or improperly formed valves.
- Echocardiogram: Sound waves are directed to your heart, causing a pattern that allows your physician to see if valves and other parts of the heart are operating properly.
- Cardiac catheterization: A liquid dye is injected through a narrow tube (catheter) into an artery, allowing a series of rapid X-rays to create a motion video of the heart and arteries.
- Magnetic resonance imaging (MRI): A combination of a magnetic field and radio waves creates three-dimensional images of your heart to determine if disease or physical abnormalities are present.
- Pulse oximetry: This simple test determines whether the oxygenated blood in your body is mixing with deoxygenated blood, which could indicate certain heart conditions.
Treatment Options for ASD
The best treatment path for ASD depends on the size of the hole and the presence of symptoms, among other factors. Procedures include open heart surgery or cardiac catheterization, which is minimally invasive and involves plugging the hole.