What is a Ventricular Septal Defect?

A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is an opening or hole in the wall that separates the two lower chambers of the heart. This wall is called the ventricular septum. The hole causes oxygen-rich blood to leak from the left side of the heart to the right side. This causes extra work for the right side of the heart, since more blood than necessary is flowing through the right ventricle to the lungs.

What are the causes of VSD

Ventricular septal defects occur during fetal heart development and are present at birth. During the first weeks after conception, the heart develops from a large tube, dividing into sections that will eventually become the walls and chambers. If a problem occurs during this process, it can create a hole in the ventricular septum.

In some cases, the tendency to develop a VSD may be due to genetic syndromes that cause extra or missing pieces of chromosomes. The vast majority of these defects, though, have no clear cause.

What are the Signs and Sysptoms of VSD?

  • A bluish tinge or color to the skin around the mouth or on the lips and tongue.
  • Poor appetite or difficulty feeding.
  • Failure to gain weight or weight loss.
  • Listlessness or decreased activity level.
  • Prolonged or unexplained fever.
  • Increasing pain, tenderness, or pus oozing from incision.

How is VSD Diagnosed?

  • Chest X-Ray
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiography
  • Cardiac Catheterization

How is VSD Treated?

  • If the defect is small, no treatment is usually needed. However, the baby should be closely monitored by a health care provider to make sure that the hole eventually closes properly and signs of heart failure do not occur.
  • With congestive heart failure, medications such as digitalis (digoxin) and diuretics may be prescribed.
  • Regardless of the size of the defect, all children with a VSD need to take antibiotics before undergoing dental work and certain other invasive procedures.
  • If symptoms continue despite medication, surgery to close the defect with a Gore-tex patch is needed. Some VSDs can be closed with a special device during a catheterization. Treating a VSD that does not have symptoms is controversial, and should be carefully discussed with your health care provider.