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What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Holes in the Heart?

What Are the Signs and Symptoms of Holes in the Heart?

Atrial Septal Defect

A heart murmur (an extra flow sound associated with the heartbeat) is the most common sign of an atrial septal defect (ASD). Often, it’s the only sign. However, not all murmurs are a sign of a congenital heart defect. Many healthy children have heart murmurs, which are innocent, normal sounds of blood flow through the heart. A doctor can tell by listening whether a murmur is a normal flow sound or a sign of a heart problem. Many babies born with ASDs have no signs or symptoms.

If a large ASD isn’t repaired, the extra blood flow to the right side of the heart can eventually damage the heart and lungs, causing heart failure. This doesn’t occur until adulthood. Signs and symptoms of heart failure can include:

  • Fatigue or tiring easily during exercise or activity
  • Shortness of breath
  • A buildup of blood and fluid in the lungs
  • A buildup of fluid in the feet, ankles, and legs

Ventricular Septal Defect

A heart murmur is usually present in ventricular septal defect (VSD) and may be the first and only sign of this defect. The heart murmur is often present right after birth in many infants, but it may not be heard until the baby is 6 to 8 weeks old.

Most newborns who have VSDs don’t have heart-related symptoms. However, a baby with a medium or large VSD can develop heart failure. Signs and symptoms of heart failure usually appear during the baby’s first 2 months of life. The signs and symptoms of heart failure from VSD are similar to those listed above for ASD, but they occur in infancy.

The major sign of heart failure is difficulty feeding and poor growth. VSD symptoms are rare after infancy because the defect either decreases in size on its own or is repaired.


Author/Source: National Heart, Lung & Blood Institute, Division of the National Institutes of Health [NIH]

Retrieved: June 2008

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