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School of Medicine
Ventricular Septal Defect
What is it?
A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is an opening in the wall (septum) that separates the two lower chambers of the heart (ventricles). Normally the right ventricle fills with oxygen-poor blood from the right atrium and flows to the lungs, where it is oxygenated. The oxygenated blood returns to the heart via the left atrium and flows into the left ventricle, where it is pumped out to the organs of the body. An opening or defect in the wall between the ventricles allows oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix, resulting in an overall increase in the amount of blood flow to the lungs, possibly resulting in damage to the lungs.
How will this affect me?
If the opening between the ventricles is small, it doesn't strain the heart. In that case, the only abnormal finding is a loud murmur.
You may feel short of breath with exercise, tire easily or have an irregular heartbeat.
How will this opening be repaired?
Closing small ventricular septal defects may not be needed. They often close on their own in childbood or adolescence. But if the opening is large, even in patients with few symptoms, closing the hole in the first two years of life is recommended to prevent serious problems later.
A VSD may also occur when a patient has a myocardial infarction (heart attack). Usually the defect is closed with a patch. Over time, the normal heart lining tissue covers the patch, so it becomes a permanent part of the heart. Some defects can be sewn closed without a patch. Repairing a VSD restores the blood circulation to normal.