Ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a condition where there is a hole (defect) in the wall between the ventricle or heart’s lower chamber on the right and the left side of the heart. This heart defect is usually present at birth and in infants.
The ventricles are the lower heart’s chambers. This chamber serves to pump blood from the heart to other organs. Meanwhile, the septum refers to the ventricular wall. The hole that occurs in the septum is called a defect or septal defect.
When a person has symptoms of a ventricular septal defect, it is found that there is a difference between the left and right ventricles, causing the heart to work harder. This leads to excess blood flow to the lungs and causes high pressure in the lungs.
If the hole is small enough, the patient does not need special treatment and the hole will close by itself. However, large holes may require surgical treatment to prevent complications of potential new diseases.
Ventricular septal defect is a type of common heart defect.
Causes of Ventricular Septal Defect
Ventricular septal defect arises from the early stages of heart development – during fetal development.
Ventricular septal defects can also occur when the septum fails to form perfectly. This happens after the patient has dealt with diseases such as a heart attack or other heart complications.
Normally, the right side of the heart pumps blood to the lungs for oxygen while the left side pumps oxygen-rich blood throughout the body. A ventricular septal defect can cause oxygen-rich blood to mix with oxygen-poor blood. As a result, the heart will work harder than usual to provide adequate oxygen to other tissues.
When to See a Doctor for Ventricular Septal Defect?
If the patient feels symptoms of ventricular septal defect, the patient should immediately consult a cardiologist. Before making a diagnosis, the doctor will first check the patient’s condition by conducting a medical interview.
The medical interview will delve into the patient’s medical history to help find out if the ventricular septal defect is caused by other heart complications or past treatments. Genetics may also be a factor.
Ventricular septal defects generally produce murmuring sound in the heart which can be heard through a stethoscope. In infants, the examination is carried out while the baby is still in the womb.
If the doctor diagnoses that the fetus has symptoms or signs of heart defects, the doctor may ask the patient to undergo a series of tests consisting of:
- Echocardiogram, a test using sound waves that produces an image of the heart. This test will locate the hole in the septum and how large the hole is.
- Electrocardiogram (ECG), a test that records electrical activity in the heart using a device called electrodes that are attached to the skin to help diagnose heart rhythm.
- Chest X-ray, a test done to observe the condition of the inside of the heart and lungs and detect if the heart is dilated.
- Cardiac catheterization, a test to detect the function of the valves and chambers of the heart by inserting a thin, flexible tube into a blood vessel through the groin or arm to the heart.
Symptoms of Ventricular Septal Defect
In some cases, the hole that causes ventricular septal defect does not cause specific symptoms. Generally, this condition is only detected by the pediatrician when the heart makes a murmuring sound.
A large hole may cause symptoms within 1 to 6 months from the baby’s birth, whereas a small hole may not cause any symptoms. The doctor may first suspect a heart defect during a regular checkup if there’s a murmur while listening to the baby’s heart.
Ventricular septal defect symptoms in a baby may include:
- Being easily tired
- Poor eating, failure to thrive
- Fast breathing or breathlessness
In some cases, ventricular septal defect can also be detected using ultrasound before the baby is born.
Meanwhile, ventricular septal defect symptoms in adults may include
- Fatigue and weakness
- Shortness of breath when lying down
- Rapid or irregular heartbeat
Treatment for Ventricular Septal Defect
In certain cases, ventricular septal defects do not require special treatment, as they can resolve on their own as one gets older. In babies, the small hole causes no symptoms and will close during the baby’s development.
If the hole is large enough and requires further treatment, the doctor may provide specific medicines such as:
- Medications to decrease the amount of fluid in circulation and in the lungs. Lack of fluids can help reduce the volume of blood that must be pumped. These medications are called diuretics.
- Medications to keep the heartbeat regular. Examples include beta blockers, such as metoprolol, propranolol, and digoxin.
- Antibiotic drugs or surgical treatment of ventricular septal defects. This is given if the condition does not improve.
- Vasodilator-type medications to reduce the workload of the left ventricle
Apart from medications, the doctor may also recommend surgery.
Surgical treatment of ventricular septal defects will be performed by a cardiothoracic surgeon. The surgical procedures includes:
- Surgical repair. This procedure of choice in most cases usually involves open-heart surgery. The doctor uses a patch or stitches to close the hole.
- Catheter procedure. This procedure requires a thin tube inserted into a blood vessel in the groin and guides it to the heart. The device will be used to close the hole.
- Hybrid procedure. A hybrid procedure refers to accessing the heart through a small incision, then using a device to close the hole through the incision.
Treatment Cost for Ventricular Septal Defect
The cost of ventricular septal defects treatment varies, depending on the location, the size, and the treatment method chosen.
For more information regarding the estimated costs of ventricular septal defects treatment, contact Smarter Health.
Prevention of Ventricular Septal Defect
Preventive measures of ventricular septal defects can be undertaken during pregnancy to keep the fetus healthy. The basics for maintaining a healthy pregnancy are:
- Balanced diet. Involves consuming vitamins that contain folic acid and limiting caffeine.
- Avoid infection by keeping up to date with all of your vaccinations before pregnancy.
- Keep diabetes under control before pregnancy.
- Get early prenatal care, even before pregnancy. This is useful for getting precise information about methods of maintaining fetal health directly from the doctor
- Exercise regularly. Talk to your doctor to help you plan the right exercise plan.
Home Remedies for Patients Diagnosed with Ventricular Septal Defect
If a baby is diagnosed with ventricular septal defect, parents play an important role in providing care at home. Try to keep a record of the baby’s developmental condition and the symptoms during the period of 1 to 6 months from birth.