Ventricular septal defect (VSD)

A ventricular septal defect (VSD), a hole in the heart, is a common heart defect that's present at birth (congenital). The hole occurs in the wall that separates the heart's lower chambers (septum) and allows blood to pass from the left to the right side of the heart. The oxygen-rich blood then gets pumped back to the lungs instead of out to the body, causing the heart to work harder.

A small ventricular septal defect may cause no problems, and many small VSDs close on their own. Larger VSDs need surgical repair early in life to prevent complications.

Symptoms Causes Risk factors Complications Prevention

Signs and symptoms of serious heart defects often appear during the first few days, weeks or months of a child's life.

Ventricular septal defect symptoms in a baby may include:

  • Poor eating, failure to thrive
  • Fast breathing or breathlessness
  • Easy tiring

You and your doctor may not notice signs of a ventricular septal defect at birth. If the defect is small, symptoms may not appear until later in childhood — if at all. Signs and symptoms vary depending on the size of the hole and other associated heart defects.

Your doctor may first suspect a heart defect during a regular checkup if he or she hears a murmur while listening to your baby's heart with a stethoscope. Sometimes VSDs can be detected by ultrasound before the baby is born.

Sometimes a VSD isn't detected until a person reaches adulthood. Signs and symptoms can include a heart murmur and shortness of breath your doctor hears when listening to your heart with a stethoscope.

When to see a doctor

Call your doctor if your baby or child:

  • Tires easily when eating or playing
  • Is not gaining weight
  • Becomes breathless when eating or crying
  • Breathes rapidly or is short of breath

Call your doctor if you develop:

  • Shortness of breath when you exert yourself or when you lie down
  • Rapid or irregular heartbeat
  • Fatigue or weakness

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