Some babies are born with heart conditions, which are known as septal defects. This means that there is a hole in the heart walls that separates the heart’s four chambers.
While this can be scary for parents to hear, it’s important to learn about the conditions so you can spot signs and symptoms.
Are Atrial and Ventricular Septal Defects the same?
Although Atrial Septal Defects (ASD) and Ventricular Septal Defects (VSD) both affect the heart, they affect it in slightly different ways.
ASD is a hole in the wall between the heart’s two upper chambers, whereas VSD is a hole in the wall between the lower two chambers. Both are a congenital condition, meaning they are present at birth.
Symptoms of Atrial Septal Defects
Although ASD can be found during prenatal tests, sometimes the condition can be missed and in many cases no symptoms will be present after a baby is born.
However, if the hole is large, then symptoms can include:
- Frequent respiratory or lung infections
- Difficulty breathing
- Tiring when feeding (infants)
- Shortness of breath when exercising
- Skipped heartbeats
- Swelling of legs, feet and/or stomach area
Symptoms of Ventricular Septal Defects
Like ASD, people with VSD may show no symptoms. If the hole is large, babies can often have symptoms of heart failure.
Other common symptoms can include:
- Shortness of breath
- Fast breathing
- Failure to gain weight
- Fast heart rate
- Sweating while feeding (infants)
- Frequent respiratory and lung infections
How do ASD and VSD differ?
The main difference between ASD and VSD is where the hotels are located in the heart.
As we’ve mentioned, Atrial Septal Defects affect the upper chambers of the heart, with the hole being in between the top to heart chambers. ASD occurs during pregnancy when a baby will have several openings in the heart wall dividing the upper chambers. These holes usually close before or shortly after birth.
These types of heart defects may occur due to changes in a combination of genes, or due to other factors like what medicine may be being used.
Ventricular Septal Defects affect the lower chambers of the heart, and this hole occurs in the wall that separates the lower chambers, allowing the blood to pass from the right to left side of the heart. The oxygen-rich blood then gets pumped back to the lungs instead of out to the body. This causes the heart to work harder and result in other complications.
VSD can occur with other genetic problems like Down Syndrome and Di George Syndrome like ASD, environmental factors can also play a role in its development.
Are Atrial Septal Defects more complicated than Ventricular Septal Defects?
While most ventricular defects can be picked up by paediatricians, Atrial Septal Defects can be more difficult to pick up because there aren’t always obvious symptoms to look for.
If a hole hasn’t closed on its own within the first two years of a child’s life, or the hole is bigger than 8-10mm, surgery may be necessary. However, if the holes aren’t closed, ASD can cause long-term consequences and damage to the lungs.
Some of the bigger complications ASD can cause include:
- Right-sided heart failure
- High blood pressure
- Early death
Can Atrial Septal Defects and Ventricular Septal Defects occur together?
Yes, ASD and VSD can occur together, however this is much less common and usually babies born with heart defects will only be born with one or the other.
Lagan’s Foundation provides at home and in the community respite care for families with children who have complex health conditions, specialising in supporting children with Heart Defects and/or feeding difficulties. Referrals for respite are accepted from parents or clinical professionals.
All staff and volunteers receive specialist training and are observed and assessed throughout their time with the charity to ensure the highest level of care is delivered to all of the families receiving respite. ASD’s and VSD’s are covered in the cardiac awareness training to enable our team to offer full support.