Ventricular Septal Defect

What is a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)? 

A Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) is a hole in the heart of infants and some adults. The hole is in the ventricular septum, the wall that divides the two lower chambers of the heart. VSD is a congenital birth defect, meaning that infants have it at birth. A VSD heart defect typically develops in a fetus during the first eight weeks of pregnancy.

In normal development, the hole closes before birth. However, with VSD, the hole remains open, allowing oxygen-rich blood to flow back to the lungs instead of to the body. This can cause higher pressure in the heart and cause the heart to work harder. VSD is one of the most common congenital heart defects.


The causes of VSDs in infants is not clear, as they often arise early in the heart's development. However, genetics and environmental factors might contribute to the formation of a Ventricular Septal Defect. Adults can get a VSD later in life as well. Adult VSDs usually occur after a heart attack or as complications of a heart procedure.


Infants and adults with VSDs may not experience symptoms. Each person may experience a unique variety of symptoms. If the condition is severe enough, the Ventricular Septal Defect symptoms can be similar to heart failure.

The following are common Ventricular Septal Defect signs and symptoms in adults:

  • High Blood Pressure
  • Shortness of Breathe
  • Fatigue or weakness
  • Loud Heart Murmur

The following are common Ventricular Septal Defect signs and symptoms in newborns and children:

  • A bluish color to the lips, tongue and/or nail beds (cyanosis)
  • An increased breathing rate or difficulty breathing
  • Poor appetite or difficulty feeding
  • Failure to thrive (weight loss or failure to gain weight)
  • Abnormal heart murmur
  • Sweating, especially during feedings
  • A weaker pulse


If a physician hears a heart murmur they will order additional tests to determine a diagnosis.

These additional tests include:

  • Chest X-Ray: These tests capture images of inside your chest.
  • Computerized tomography (CT) Scan: These scans use a series of X-Rays along with specialized computer technology to create a detailed picture of inside your chest.
  • Cardiac Catheterization: A long thin tube is inserted into your vein or artery to reach your heart.
  • Echocardiogram: An ultrasound of the heart to check the size and condition of the chambers and valves.
  • Pulse Oximetry: A noninvasive procedure that measures the oxygen levels in your blood.
  • Electrocardiogram, or ECG: This test measures the electrical activity of the heart.
  • Magnetic Resonance Imaging, or MRI: MRIs capture images of your body for further examination.


Babies and adults with small VSDs usually do not need surgery to close the hole. In these cases, patients with VSD may be treated with medication. Someone with a medium or large VSD may require surgical procedures to repair the defect.


Your doctor may prescribe the following types of medication to help treat VSD:

  • Diuretics: These medications reduce fluid circulation and fluid in the lungs. This lowers the volume of blood that must be pumped.
  • Beta Blockers: These medications help maintain a standard heart rate.


Your doctor may perform one or more of the following procedures to treat VSDs:

  • Surgical Repair: This is the most common procedure and usually involves open heart surgery.
  • Catheter Procedure: Your doctor guides a long thin tube through your vein or blood vessel to your heart. A special mesh is then used to close the hole in your heart.
  • Hybrid procedure: Combination of surgical and catheter-based techniques.

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