We are independent & ad-supported. We may earn a commission for purchases made through our links.
Advertiser Disclosure
Our website is an independent, advertising-supported platform. We provide our content free of charge to our readers, and to keep it that way, we rely on revenue generated through advertisements and affiliate partnerships. This means that when you click on certain links on our site and make a purchase, we may earn a commission. Learn more.
How We Make Money
We sustain our operations through affiliate commissions and advertising. If you click on an affiliate link and make a purchase, we may receive a commission from the merchant at no additional cost to you. We also display advertisements on our website, which help generate revenue to support our work and keep our content free for readers. Our editorial team operates independently of our advertising and affiliate partnerships to ensure that our content remains unbiased and focused on providing you with the best information and recommendations based on thorough research and honest evaluations. To remain transparent, we’ve provided a list of our current affiliate partners here.

What is a VSD (Ventricular Septal Defect)?

Tricia Christensen
Updated Jan 22, 2024
Our promise to you
WiseGeek is dedicated to creating trustworthy, high-quality content that always prioritizes transparency, integrity, and inclusivity above all else. Our ensure that our content creation and review process includes rigorous fact-checking, evidence-based, and continual updates to ensure accuracy and reliability.

Our Promise to you

Founded in 2002, our company has been a trusted resource for readers seeking informative and engaging content. Our dedication to quality remains unwavering—and will never change. We follow a strict editorial policy, ensuring that our content is authored by highly qualified professionals and edited by subject matter experts. This guarantees that everything we publish is objective, accurate, and trustworthy.

Over the years, we've refined our approach to cover a wide range of topics, providing readers with reliable and practical advice to enhance their knowledge and skills. That's why millions of readers turn to us each year. Join us in celebrating the joy of learning, guided by standards you can trust.

Editorial Standards

At WiseGeek, we are committed to creating content that you can trust. Our editorial process is designed to ensure that every piece of content we publish is accurate, reliable, and informative.

Our team of experienced writers and editors follows a strict set of guidelines to ensure the highest quality content. We conduct thorough research, fact-check all information, and rely on credible sources to back up our claims. Our content is reviewed by subject-matter experts to ensure accuracy and clarity.

We believe in transparency and maintain editorial independence from our advertisers. Our team does not receive direct compensation from advertisers, allowing us to create unbiased content that prioritizes your interests.

A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is one of the most common congenital heart defects. A wall or septum divides the ventricles, the pumping chambers of the heart. In some developing hearts, the septum does not completely divide the two ventricles. A hole in the septum is classified as a ventricular septal defect. Many may have heard the term a "hole in the heart," which usually refers to a VSD.

If a VSD is fairly large, it can cause almost immediate problems to the affected newborn. VSDs create problems because the blood returning to the lungs in the right ventricle mixes with the oxygenated blood in the left ventricle. This can cause the right ventricle to overload and send too much blood to the lungs, causing very high blood pressure. If ignored, a VSD can cause a syndrome called Eisenmenger's, which results in early morbidity and is only reparable through a heart-lung transplant.

The mixed blood returning to the body from the left ventricle results in all the body's tissues and organs not getting enough oxygen. This can cause growth problems, difficulty feeding, and gradually an enlarged heart, due to the body's attempt to get more oxygen. Either ventricle may become enlarged from overflow.

Fortunately, the ventricular septal defect is often so small that it may not ever be noticed or treated. Often, a small VSD closes on its own without any type of medical intervention. Moderately sized VSDs are usually first noticed a few days after a child is born, although diagnosis can take longer depending on how much the ventricular septal defect is impacting the child's health. Many children with minor VSDs do not exhibit any symptoms or problems, but physicians may detect a heart murmur, which warrants further investigation.

When a ventricular septal defect is suspected, the child is generally referred to a pediatric cardiologist for further examination. The cardiologist will probably require a chest X-ray, an electrocardiogram (EKG), and an echocardiogram. The echocardiogram is basically a sonogram of the heart. All these tests are noninvasive and take little time to perform. If further examination of the size of the ventricular septal defect is needed, a cardiac catheterization may be performed.

With a moderately sized ventricular septal defect, most cardiologists prefer to wait and see if the hole closes on its own. This decision varies, however, and largely depends upon the health of the child. The bigger the hole, the more likely problems will occur.

If repair of the VSD is not immediate, the cardiologist may prescribe medications like digoxin to improve heart function and lasix to help reduce fluid overload. When a child cannot breast or bottle feed, high calorie formula can be administered through a nasal-gastric tube. A child with an unrepaired moderate or large VSD is more susceptible to lung infections, and care must be taken to avoid exposure to others who are ill.

If a ventricular septal defect is causing significant growth delays, or is creating too much pressure in the lungs, surgical repair provides an excellent outcome. The pediatric cardiothoracic surgeon will perform an open-heart procedure and suture or patch the holes with Gore-tex. Once surgery is performed, the child may be monitored once a year, but generally there are no limitations on activity or effects on quality of life. Most cardiologists, however, recommed that any child with a ventricular septal defect, repaired or otherwise, take antibiotics prior to any dental examinations to inhibit the potential growth of strep cells in the heart, a condition called bacterial endocarditis.

Though the surgery itself can be frightening and stressful to both parents and child, once over, the child should live a normal and healthy life. Symptoms prior to the surgery, like poor growth or feeding issues, generally resolve once the ventricular septal defect is closed. Closing a single VSD has a 99% rate of being uncomplicated.

In general, there is no known cause for a VSD. Children with Down's Syndrome are more likely to have VSDs, as are children with Noonan's Syndrome. Maternal use of alcohol and cocaine have also been linked to a greater incidence of VSDs. However, in most cases of ventricular septal defect, there is no defining link to maternal behavior or related health issues.

WiseGeek is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
Tricia Christensen
By Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia Christensen is based in Northern California and brings a wealth of knowledge and passion to her writing. Her wide-ranging interests include reading, writing, medicine, art, film, history, politics, ethics, and religion, all of which she incorporates into her informative articles. Tricia is currently working on her first novel.
Discussion Comments
Tricia Christensen
Tricia Christensen
With a Literature degree from Sonoma State University and years of experience as a WiseGeek contributor, Tricia...
Learn more
WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.

WiseGeek, in your inbox

Our latest articles, guides, and more, delivered daily.