A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is an abnormal opening in the wall (septum) that divides the two lower chambers of the heart (ventricles) and allows blood from either side of the heart to cross into the opposite ventricle.
Usually, because the left side of the heart is at a higher pressure than the right side, the blood from the left ventricle flows to the right ventricle and, subsequently, back to the lungs. This abnormal shunting of oxygen-rich blood back to the oxygen-poor right side of the heart is referred to as a left-to-right shunt.
Because the right side of the heart and the blood vessels in the lungs are not built to withstand increased volumes and pressures, left-to-right shunting eventually may result in heart failure and pulmonary hypertension (elevated blood pressure in the pulmonary blood vessels).
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Signs and symptoms depend on the VSD’s size and how much blood abnormally flows across the defect. Symptoms may include:
Tests to diagnose ventricular septal defect may include:
The surgical option for a VSD is ventricular septal defect closure. Ventricular septal defect closure is considered open-heart surgery, meaning the heart will have to be opened and the patient’s blood flow will have to be diverted to a heart-lung bypass machine during the repair.
If the patient has no other cardiac defects, this operation usually is considered a cure and no further surgeries should be needed.
Texas Children’s Heart Center performs an average of 54 ventricular septal defect closures each year. The survival rate was 100% in 2011. To learn more about our ventricular septal defect surgical outcomes, visit our Heart Center Outcomes website.