Atrial Septal Defect

This condition is an opening in the wall that separates the two chambers of the heart. Atrial septal defect is found in six to 10 percent of all people born with heart disease. It occurs more often in girls than boys.


With this type of heart defect, a heart murmur (sound a doctor can hear with a stethoscope) will usually be discovered before the child is a year old. Without treatment, it can cause high blood pressure in the lungs and a high risk of an embolism (the sudden blockage of a blood vessel by an air bubble or other particle circulating in the blood).


Atrial septal defect can be diagnosed on the basis of the patient's symptoms.

Other tests to confirm the condition include:

  • X-rays to detect if the heart is getting larger and if the right atrium (top chamber), right ventricle (bottom chamber) and pulmonary artery are dilating
  • Electrocardiograph
  • Two-dimensional and doppler flow echocardiography (test of the heart done by sound waves)


Usually surgery is done to repair this condition when a child is between the ages of two and six years old. It can be done at younger ages if necessary.