Atrial Septal Defect (ASD): Symptoms, Causes and Treatments


What is Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)?

Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a condition when there is a hole in the heart wall (septum) that separates the two upper heart chambers (right and left atria). ASD is a congenital heart disorder, meaning this disorder has existed since a baby was born.

Under normal conditions, blood in the right heart chamber flows to the lungs to pick up oxygen. Then, the oxygen-rich blood returns to the heart through the left heart chamber which is then pumped to the rest of the body.

However, in people with ASD, the oxygenated blood on the left can leak and mix with the blood on the right. As a result, the blood that will flow to the lungs increases, which can also increase the pressure in the lungs (pulmonary hypertension). Therefore, this condition is often referred to as a heart chamber leak.

ASD is further classified also by size. Holes that are classified as small have a diameter of < 6 mm, medium if the size is between 6-11 mm, and large if the size is >= 12 mm.

How common ASD occurred? Atrial septal defect is a common congenital heart disease. Cleveland Clinic said, ASD ranks third for the number of cases of congenital heart disease. This condition is more common in women than men.

Symptoms of Atrial Septal Defect

Some babies born with ASD do not show any symptoms or signs. Generally, new symptoms appear in childhood. However, there are also those who do not show symptoms until they are adults or even old age. The incidence of ASD ranges from 1 in 1500 live births.

When it is felt, the symptoms that appear can be different for each sufferer. However, in general, some of the typical symptoms of atrial septal defect are:

  • Shortness of breath, especially during activity.
  • Tired easily.
  • Swelling of the legs and abdomen.
  • Frequent respiratory or lung infections, such as pneumonia.
  • Heart palpitations (palpitations) or an abnormal heartbeat.
  • Heart murmur, which is a whistling sound that can be heard through a stethoscope.
  • Poor appetite.
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There may be some signs or symptoms not listed. If you have any concerns about the symptoms, please consult your doctor.

Causes of Atrial Septal Defect

ASD occurs during fetal heart development. During this time, the heart develops from tubular tissue, which then helps to form its parts and walls and four chambers. If problems occur during this process, it can result in the formation of a hole in the wall that separates the left and right atria.

However, the cause of the formation of a hole in the atrial septal defect is not known. Some infants have heart defects due to genetic factors or a combination of other factors in the mother during pregnancy, such as the environment or taking certain foods or drugs.

Atrial Septal Defect Treatments

Patients with ASD require special treatment if they have serious problems such as significant blood flow through the orifice, an enlarged heart, or other severe symptoms. There are several methods of treatment to treat atrial septal defects are:


If an infant is diagnosed with an atrial septal defect, the doctor may monitor it temporarily to see if the hole can close on its own. At this time, doctors will generally give drugs. The drugs will not fix the hole, but to reduce some of the symptoms that accompany ASD.

In addition, doctors also often give drugs to reduce the risk of complications after surgery. Generally, to keep the heartbeat regular, such as beta blocker drugs, or to reduce blood clotting (anticoagulant drugs).


Your doctor may recommend surgery to repair a medium to large atrial septal defect. Here are two surgical methods to repair an atrial septal defect:

  • Cardiac catheterization. In a cardiac catheter, the doctor inserts a catheter, a thin tube, into a vein in the groin and guides it to the heart using imaging techniques. Through the catheter, the doctor can patch the hole with a mesh. Heart tissue will then grow around the mesh, and will permanently close the hole.
  • Open heart surgery. This type of surgery uses anesthesia as well as a heart-lung bypass machine. Through an incision in the chest, the surgeon closes the hole using a patch.
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FAQ about Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

Is ASD life threatening?

In severe cases, ASD can cause life-threatening effects if the sufferer experiences serious symptoms such as chest pain, irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), abnormally enlarged heart, and heart failure. Surgery may be needed to prevent serious complications.

What is an ASD in the heart?

ASD is a congenital heart disorder, a condition when there is a hole in the heart wall (septum). In infants, small ASDs (less than 6 mm) will often not cause problems, or will close without treatment. Larger ASDs (8 to 10 mm), often do not close and may need a procedure.

How long can you live with ASD heart?

Atrial septal defect (ASD) can reduce life expectancy. Patients with ASD, their average age at death not exceeding 50 years.

Can ASD in heart be cured?

ASD can be cured by consuming medicine or take surgery. For surgery, usually doctor will recommend Open heart surgery. This surgery is the only way to fix atrial primum, sinus venosus and coronary sinus defects. Sometimes, repair of an atrial septal defect can be done using small incisions (minimally invasive surgery) and with a robot (robotic-assisted heart surgery).


  • Congenital Heart Defects – Facts about Atrial Septal Defects | CDC. (2021). Retrieved 10 July 2022, from
  • Atrial septal defect (ASD) – Symptoms and causes. (2021). Retrieved 10 July 2022, from
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  • Atrial Septal Defect (ASD) (for Parents) – Nemours KidsHealth. (2021). Retrieved 10 July 2022, from
  • Atrial Septal Defect (ASD): Symptoms, Causes, Tests and Treatments. (2021). Retrieved 10 July 2022, from


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