Ventricular Septal Defect

A ventricular septal defect is one of the most common congenital (present from birth) heart defects. It refers to one or more holes in the wall separating the right and left ventricles of the heart, the lower chambers. It may occur by itself or with other heart defects. There are several names for these holes or openings, depending on where they are located. Before babies are born, the right and left ventricles are not separate, but as the baby grows a wall forms to separate them. If the wall does not form completely, a hole remains. The hole can eventually close on its own, causing no problems, but if the hole is too large, too much blood is pumped to the lungs, causing heart failure. It also may cause oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix, giving the baby's skin a bluish tint. Although it is present at birth and usually is treated at that point, sometimes the condition is not diagnosed until adulthood. It is treatable, depending on its size and whether symptoms occur. The cause is not known.

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 ventricular 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