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Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) 

What is a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)?

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) is one of the most common congenital heart defects. In a VSD, there is a hole in the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart (the right and left ventricles). This hole results in increased blood flow to the lungs. Unlike other more severe forms of congenital heart defects, ventricular septal defects cannot always be diagnosed before birth, particularly if the hole is small.

How is a VSD diagnosed during pregnancy?

If your doctor suspects a fetal heart anomaly after reviewing your routine ultrasound, he or she may request a fetal echocardiogram (echo), an ultrasound of the fetus’s heart. This safe, noninvasive test shows the structure of the heart and how it is functioning, which can help us determine if there is a VSD and discuss possible options for treatment after delivery. Our Fetal Heart Team will monitor the baby closely for the remainder of the pregnancy if indicated.

How does a VSD affect delivery?

Most babies with a VSD can be delivered vaginally at full-term unless otherwise indicated by the obstetrician.

How does the diagnosis of a VSD affect my child after delivery?

There are generally no symptoms immediately after birth. Over the first 1-2 months of life, a baby with a large VSD may develop symptoms such as trouble feeding, excessive sleepiness, fast breathing, and poor weight gain. The larger the hole, the more symptoms the baby may have. A baby with a small VSD may not have any symptoms.

What are the treatments and surgeries for a VSD?

In early infancy, a baby may require medications and supplemental feedings (high in calories) to help manage the symptoms of fast breathing and improve weight gain.

Most small VSDs will close on their own over months to years. For larger VSDs, open heart surgery is performed when medications are not adequate to control symptoms. This may be in the first six months of life. After surgery, children need regular follow-up visits with a cardiologist but usually lead healthy, normal lives.

Additional Resources:

Congenital Heart Disease Resource Page
Provided by the Dorothy and Larry Dallas Heart Center at SSM Health Cardinal Glennon Children's Hospital

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