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Holes in the heart are a type of congenital heart disease. Ventricular septal defect (VSD) and atrial septal defect (ASD) are the two most common congenital defects that may affect an individual. These occur due to structural malformation in the walls of the heart when these are developing at the fetal stage. ASD and VSD can be repaired and closed as soon as they are identified or right after birth. ASD is the hole in the septa that divides the two atrium and VSD refers to the hole in the ventricular walls. The holes allow the reverse flow of blood, thus, facilitating the mixing of pure and impure blood.
Typically, medications are administered to see whether ASD or VSD closes on its own. In case the defect does not close on its own and the individual continues to experience atrial septal defect symptoms such as breathing difficulties, heart murmurs, shortness of breath, and respiratory infections, then a surgery is recommended. The surgical procedure for atrial septal defect repair and ventricular septal defect treatment are almost the same, except the fact that different parts of the heart are targeted during the surgery.
Before atrial septal defect surgery or VSD surgery, the surgeon generally prescribes a few medications to control the symptoms and see whether the defect closes on its own. If not, a date for the surgery is set. You should prepare a list of questions that you wish to ask your doctor and accordingly get all your doubts cleared. The doctor may conduct a series of tests to check for the overall health of the patient and check whether he or she is suitable to undergo the surgery. A review of patient’s medical history is conducted before preparing a treatment plan.
Two different types of approaches can be used for ASD and VSD repair or closure, depending on the experience of the surgeon, the overall health of the patient, and certain other factors. The first is open-heart surgery and the second one is cardiac catheterization. Irrespective of the approach used, the patient is administered a general anesthetic so that he or she does not feel any pain and is asleep during the procedure.
The main surgical approach used to repair or close ASD or VSD is open-heart surgery. It is conducted by making an incision in the chest and using surgical instruments to open the chest to gain access to the heart. The heart is then put on bypass, which involves connecting it to a machine that pumps blood to the body during the surgery. For the same reason, it is also known as the heart-lung bypass machine. The surgeon then repairs the hole by closing it with sutures or by placing a biological patch on it that mixes with the muscle. Once the hole is repaired, the chest is then closed and the incision site is closed with sutures.
It is a minimally invasive procedure conducted using a catheter, which is inserted into the blood vessel of the groin. The catheter is then guided up to the heart and mesh material is placed over the hole through the catheter to close the defect. Once the repair is made, the catheter is removed.
Within a period of 6 months, normal tissues start growing in and around the mesh. Only a needle puncture is made in this procedure and hence this is less invasive as a procedure. This procedure is usually successful until and unless the hole is too large and only an open surgery can solve the problem.
The patient will be transferred to the intensive care unit (ICU) for a day or so for continuous monitoring. Antibiotics will be administered to the patient to prevent infections such as endocarditis. Regular checkups will follow for a while to ensure that the hole gets closed properly. To prevent the formation of blood clots, the patient may be given aspirin. Apart from all these, for the first few months, activities will be kept limited till that patient is fit enough to handle physical exertion.
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Q: Can I live with a hole in the heart?
A: You may live normally unless there are no symptoms. Once you start experiencing certain symptoms, a medical intervention is warranted.
Q: Can VSD close on its own?
A: Large VSDs are unlikely to close on their own unless they turn small over a period of time. Large VSDs are most often closed surgically.
Q: What are some of the signs of a hole in the heart?
A: Shortness of breath, abnormal heart rhythm. Heart murmurs and tiredness are some of the signs and symptoms of a hole in the heart.
Q: Is it possible to cure a hole in the heart?
A: While smalled holes in the heart close on their own, larger ones can be treated surgically or with the help of medications or both.