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Atrial Septal Defects

Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital (from birth) heart defect in which the wall that separates the upper heart chambers (atria) does not close completely.

ASD is not very common. Initially, any symptoms of atrial septal defects may not appear or be so mild that they may go unnoticed. Frequently an atrial septal defect is not discovered until school age or even adulthood. In adults with undetected atrial septal defects, respiratory problems and/or heart failure may develop.

If you are diagnosed with an atrial septal defect, you may be at increased risk for:

  • Atrial fibrillation (in adults)
  • Heart failure
  • Pulmonary overcirculation
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Stroke

What are the symptoms of atrial septal defects?

While small-to-moderate-sized defects may produce no symptoms (or not until middle age or later), when symptoms to appear they may include:

  • Difficulty breathing
  • Frequent respiratory infections in children
  • Sensation of feeling the heart beat (palpitations) in adults
  • Shortness of breath with activity