Atrial Septal Defect

An atrial septal defect is an abnormal opening between the heart's upper chambers. It is a common congenital (present from birth) heart defect. Smaller atrial septal defects may close on their own during infancy or early childhood or may be diagnosed and treated successfully with few or no complications. However, large and longstanding atrial septal defects can damage the heart and lungs. Large atrial septal defects allow extra blood volume, which can overfill the lungs and overwork the heart. If it is not treated, the right side of the heart enlarges and weakens. Adults who have not been diagnosed for many years may have a shorter life span from heart failure, a stroke, heart rhythm abnormalities or high blood pressure in the lungs. Atrial septal defects are not always diagnosed as early in life as other types of heart problems because the heart murmur it produces is faint and can be difficult for doctors to hear. It may be diagnosed at any time between infancy and adolescence or as late as adulthood.

Why UAB

The UAB Congenital Heart Disease Program offers the most advanced care for structural heart disease, which often requires lifetime monitoring and care. Our multidisciplinary team of pediatric and adult cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, cardiovascular anesthesiologists, and maternal/fetal medicine specialists are uniquely qualified to treat patients before birth and into adulthood. In addition to seeing patients at the UAB Women & Infants Center and The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital, UAB Medicine’s congenital heart disease specialists also see patients at North Alabama Children's Specialists in Huntsville and Physicians to Children/Central Alabama Children's Specialists in Montgomery.

Our modern ultrasound equipment allows many heart defects to be diagnosed before a child is born. Screening exams performed at 18-20 weeks are recommended for expectant mothers (or fathers) known to have congenital heart disease. If a defect is discovered, prenatal treatment and planning for delivery and postnatal treatment can be undertaken.

Thanks to advances in pediatric congenital care, the life expectancy for most patients now reaches far into adulthood, but more than 60% stop seeing a cardiologist once they turn 18. UAB’s Alabama Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is designed to prevent that gap in care. As the only adult congenital heart disease program in the state and one of only a handful in the country, our expertise greatly increases the chances that symptoms will be identified early. This helps ensure that smaller problems are addressed before they develop into larger, more life-threatening issues such as heart failure, arrhythmia, residual congenital heart defects, endocarditis, and stroke.

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Related Conditions

Listed below are some conditions that may be related to or share some similarities with the condition addressed on this page.

Related Treatments

Depending on your case and your physician’s assessment, your condition may be treated using one or more various procedures. Some of those procedures are listed below for your convenience. Please note that this is not a comprehensive list and may vary depending on your specific diagnosis.

Clinical Trials

UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of atrial septal defect . We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.

View Clinical Trials