Combining attentive, compassionate care with our extensive clinical and research resources, UT Southwestern's cardiology experts and vascular specialists deliver individualized care within pre-eminent health care facilities.
Atrial Septal Defect
UT Southwestern Medical Center offers comprehensive diagnostic services and treatments – including minimally invasive surgical procedures – to patients with atrial septal defects (ASDs).
Our adult congenital heart disease experts work with patients to develop an evidence-based treatment plan tailored to their unique condition, related health issues, and treatment goals.
Comprehensive, Evidence-Based Care for ASD
An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the septum, the muscular wall that separates the heart’s upper chambers, or atria.
The hole allows blood to move from the left atrium into the right atrium, causing the right side to become overloaded with blood. Consequently, the lungs – where the right side of the heart sends the blood – also become overloaded with blood. The right ventricle eventually weakens due to the extra stress.
In most cases, ASD is a congenital heart condition (meaning people are born with it), and symptoms commonly appear when patients are in their 20s.
UT Southwestern’s experienced heart doctors have the expertise necessary to properly diagnose and repair ASD. Our Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program provides complete diagnostic, treatment, and consultative services for patients age 16 and older with all types of congenital heart disease, including those who are newly diagnosed as adults. We offer specialized care that can minimize or prevent complications of congenital heart disease and help patients live longer, healthier lives.
UT Southwestern is also home to a dedicated Cardiac Rehabilitation Program. Cardiac rehabilitation is a critical component of recovery and can prevent future heart disease.
Atrial Septal Defect Symptoms
Symptoms of ASD include:
- Heart rhythm disorders (cardiac arrhythmias), such as atrial fibrillation
- Heart palpitations: Feeling of the heart pounding, racing, or skipping beats
- Heart failure
- Pulmonary hypertension: High blood pressure in the lungs
- Shortness of breath (dyspnea)
Diagnosis of Atrial Septal Defect
Tests used to diagnose ASD include:
- Cardiac catheterization: To detect higher oxygen saturation of blood in the right side of the heart
- Chest X-ray: To evaluate the condition of the heart and lungs and possibly to identify conditions other than a heart defect to explain symptoms
- Echocardiography (“echo” or cardiac ultrasound): To visualize the heart beating and blood flowing and identify abnormalities in the heart muscle and valves
- Electrocardiogram (ECG or EKG): To record electrical signals as they travel through the heart to look for patterns and rhythms to diagnose various heart conditions
- Physical exam: Includes listening with a stethoscope for abnormal sounds in the heart, particularly a squishing sound as blood flows between atria
Treatment Options for Atrial Septal Defect
UT Southwestern offers treatments for ASD that include:
- Atrial septal defect closure: An open or minimally invasive surgery in which the hole in the septum is patched with either a synthetic patch or the patient’s own pericardium, the membrane that surrounds the heart
- Atrial septal defect repair: An open surgery in which the hole in the septum is closed with sutures
- Cardiac catheterization closure: A minimally invasive procedure in which a catheter is sent through an artery into the heart to close the hole in the septum
- Diuretics: Medications that decrease fluid retention and ease the burden on the heart
UT Southwestern’s cardiac rehabilitation specialists create customized plans that make nutrition, exercise, and, if necessary, nicotine-cessation programs an integral part of a patient’s daily routine.
As one of the nation’s top academic medical centers, UT Southwestern offers a number of clinical trials aimed at improving the outcomes of patients with cardiovascular disease.
Clinical trials often give patients access to leading-edge treatments that are not yet widely available. Eligible patients who choose to participate in one of UT Southwestern’s clinical trials might receive treatments years before they are available to the public.