Atrial Septal Defect in Children

Congenital Heart Defects are one of the most common types of birth defects.

Congenital Heart Defects are one of the most common types of birth defects. These are defects that are present at the time of birth of a child. They are defects that hamper the normal functioning of the heart. Worldwide the incidence of congenital heart defects is the same, 9 per 1000 live births. Some of the defects are simple in nature like holes in between the different chambers of the heart, some are moderate in nature like (mild obstruction in the heart valves) to more complex defects like blood vessels arising from the wrong chambers of the heart.  In India more than 200,000 children are born every year with congenital heart defects. 

One of the common forms of CHD is Atrial Septal Defect (ASD). It is defined as a hole in between the upper chambers of the heart. 

The exact cause of ASD is not known. Some of the causes could be genetic, exposure to certain viruses during pregnancy, smoking during pregnancy etc. 

Common symptoms of ASD 

These are

  • Frequent respiratory infection 
  • Difficulty in breathing 
  • Shortness of breath 
  • Murmur

Generally, a doctor would conduct an echocardiography test (ultrasound of the heart) to confirm the presence of an ASD. If the ASD is large, a chest X ray may also be performed to determine the enlargement of the heart. 

In some children having small ASD, there might not be any symptoms. They lead a normal life, well into adulthood. They might not require any medications. 

There are generally two types of treatment for holes in the heart: open heart surgery and catheter based device closure which is hole treatment without surgery.  The treatment modalities for ASD is the same as ASD is a hole in between the upper chambers of the heart. 

During open heart surgery the child is administered general anesthesia, the heart and lungs are stopped, the functioning of the heart and lungs are taken by the heart lung by-pass machine for the entire duration of the surgery. The heart is pulled out of the chest cavity, the surgery is performed, and the heart is placed inside the chest cavity. 

For heart hole treatment without surgery, which are catheter-based interventions, the child is administered general anesthesia, a catheter is pushed from the groin region with a device which gets inflated and is placed above the hole.  The children are discharged within 1 to 2 days post procedure. For such procedures the recovery time is faster, length of stay of the child in the hospital is less. Also, there are no scars.

For more information on holes in heart treatment visit www.genesis-foundation.net. Genesis Foundation is an NGO supporting the treatment for congenital heart defects child with unprivileged children. 

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