Septal Defects



The cause is not always known.

Risk Factors

Things that may raise the risk of these problems are:

  • Family history of birth defects of the heart
  • Exposure to a viral infection, drugs, or alcohol during pregnancy
  • Taking certain medicines during pregnancy, such as those used to treat seizure disorder
  • Genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome



Many people with ASD or VSD do not have symptoms. Large defects and AVSD may cause:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Getting tired easily
  • Poor growth


A septal defect may be found during a regular exam. The doctor may hear a heart murmur.

The heart may be tested. This can be done with:

  • Echocardiogram
  • Electrocardiogram (EKG)
  • Cardiac catheterization

Chest x-rays may be done to look at the heart and the structures around it.



The goal of treatment is to fix the defect. How this is done depends on the type and size of the defect. Choices are:

  • Watching small ASDs and VSDs to see if they close on their own
  • Medicines to ease symptoms of heart failure
  • Surgery to repair a defect that is causing problems and has not closed on its own


Septal defects cannot be prevented. The risk of them may be lowered with prenatal care.

This content is reviewed regularly and is updated when new and relevant evidence is made available. This information is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with questions regarding a medical condition.

Edits to original content made by Denver Health.