Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)| Diagnosis and Treatment

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Contact the Congenital Heart Valve Program

How is atrial septal defect diagnosed?

An atrial septal defect (ASD) is often first detected when a doctor hears an abnormal heart murmur when listening to your baby’s heart. Sometimes, an ASD is not diagnosed for many years.

Depending on the type of murmur your doctor hears, one or more or the following tests may be necessary:

What are the treatment options for atrial septal defect?

A small ASD that does not cause right-sided, heart-chamber enlargement requires no treatment. Closure of an ASD is recommended if symptoms are present or there is dilatation of the right heart chambers. For children who have a large ASD, treatment options may include:

  • Medications: For some children, who have respiratory symptoms caused by increased blood flow to the lungs, diuretics are used. 
  • Cardiac catheterization: For this procedure, an umbrella-shaped device that serves as a patch is inserted into the heart through the leg vein with a catheter, and then the device is opened to cover the hole. This way surgery is avoided. 
  • Surgery: If the ASD is too large in an area where a catheterization will not work, or the child also has other heart defects, surgery may be needed to stitch or patch the hole closed. Boston Children's Hospital can perform minimally-invasive approaches for surgical ASD closure, so the scar is smaller and the recovery faster. We are able to perform it from the front and the side with a small opening in the sternum or between the ribs.
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