A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a common congenital heart defect characterized by a hole between the two lower chambers of the heart. This condition causes blood from the left ventricle to flow back into the right ventricle. It is sometimes referred to as a “hole in the heart.” Ventricular septal defects are the most common congenital heart defect in newborn babies.
In mild cases the only symptom may be a heart murmur. In more severe cases, infants or children may have poor growth, breathing problems, and difficulty eating or sweating. If a defect is large and left unrepaired, adults may become cyanotic (bluish discoloration of the skin due to low oxygen levels in the blood) and develop heart failure.
Anyone who has ever been diagnosed with and/or treated for ventricular septal defect should have lifelong care from a cardiologist who specializes in congenital heart defects. The Ohio State University Medical Center provides this care from birth to adulthood. We partner with Nationwide Children’s Hospital to provide the resources necessary for the care of adult congenital cardiac patients through the Columbus Ohio Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program (COACH).
The COACH program focuses on:
- Adults with congenital heart disease (CHD)
- Pulmonary hypertension
- Cardiovascular connective tissue disorders
- Pregnancy in women with heart disease
- Transition of adolescents with CHD into adult congenital heart disease (ACHD) care
- Training of future ACHD providers
Why Choose The Ohio State University Wexner Medical Center?
Ohio State’s Wexner Medical Center offers a team approach to CHD, which means each patient is evaluated by an Adult Congenital Heart Disease (ACHD) specialist, and when appropriate, a cardiac surgeon, an imaging specialist and an interventional cardiologist with training in CHD. This integrated approach means that each patient’s disease is treated individually, with that particular patient’s needs, and physical condition, in mind.
What is Ventricular Septal Defect?
Ventricular septal defects occur when the muscular wall (septum) that separates the heart into two sides does not form properly between the heart’s lower chambers (ventricles). The resulting opening allows new and used blood to mix. Blood then overfills the lungs, causing an increased workload for the heart. An untreated severe ventricular septal defect can cause blood pressure in the lungs to become high, resulting in enlarged, inefficient ventricles. This can damage the pulmonary arteries and lead to heart failure.
When a baby has a serious heart defect, symptoms may become apparent in the first days, weeks or months of life. Symptoms of a large ventricular septal defect include:
- Fast breathing
- Rapid heart rate
- Swelling of feet, legs and abdomen
- Failure to thrive
Smaller ventricular septal defects may close on their own or may cause no symptoms.
In adults, if a large ventricular septal defect is left unrepaired, the pressure in the lungs becomes high resulting in enlargement and of the heart, heart failure and cyanosis (bluish discoloration of the skin).
What Causes Ventricular Septal Defect?
Like other congenital heart defects, ventricular septal defect occurs during fetal development. The cause is unknown, but genetics may play a role. If members of your family have ventricular septal defect, you may want to consult with a genetic counselor who may recommend genetic testing.