Conditions We Treat

Atrial and Ventricular Septal Defect Symptoms

Atrial and ventricular septal defect symptoms, patent foramen ovale symptoms and severe aortic stenosis symptoms are common structural heart disease symptoms that are expertly diagnosed and treated by the region's top structural heart disease specialists at North Shore-LIJ Health System's Cardiac Services.

Common structural heart defects that can be present at birth are:

  • Atrial septal defect
  • Ventricular septal defect
  • Patent foramen ovale

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
An atrial septal defect is a hole in the septum (wall) that separates the two upper chambers of the heart. Present at birth, an atrial septal defect causes blood to leak into the right side of the heart and flow back to the lungs.

Symptoms of Atrial Septal Defect
There are often no symptoms of atrial septal defect. The condition is often discovered during a regular doctor's visit when the doctor notices the presence of a cardiac murmur or abnormal heart sounds. In adults, symptoms of atrial septal defect often begin by age 30 and, in some cases, may not occur until much later in life. Atrial septal defect symptoms may include:

  • Heart murmur, a whooshing sound that can be heard through a stethoscope
  • Shortness of breath, especially when exercising
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of legs, feet or abdomen
  • Heart palpitations or skipped beats
  • Frequent lung infections
  • Stroke
  • Bluish skin color

Click here for Atrial Septal Defect Treatment.

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)
Ventricular septal defect is a hole or defect in the septum (wall) that divides the two lower chambers of the heart. Before a baby is born, the right and left ventricles of its heart are not separate. As the fetus grows, a wall forms and separates the two ventricles. If the wall does not completely form, a hole, or ventricular septal defect, remains. Depending on the size of the hole, the heart may have to pump harder to deliver enough oxygen to the body.

Symptoms of Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)
In some cases, babies born with this congenital heart defect may have no symptoms, and the hole can eventually close as the wall continues to grow after birth. However, if the hole is large, the baby often has symptoms related to heart failure. The most common symptoms of ventricular septal defect include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Fast breathing
  • Hard breathing
  • Paleness
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Fast heart rate
  • Sweating while feeding
  • Frequent respiratory infections

Click here for Ventricular Septal Defect Treatment.

Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
Patent foramen ovale is a congenital structural heart defect that occurs when the small flap-like opening that separates the two upper (atrial) chambers of the heart prior to birth fail to seal after birth. This heart defect occurs in about 20% of all babies.

Symptoms of Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO)
Often a patent foramen ovale is not diagnosed until a child or adult with this defect has a transient ischemic attack (TIA) or a stroke. TIAs produce stroke-like symptoms that last less than 24 hours. Symptoms of patent foramen ovale include any of the following TIA or stroke symptoms:

  • Sudden numbness or weakness in the face, arm or leg (especially on one side of the body)
  • Difficulty speaking or understanding words or simple sentences
  • Sudden blurred vision or decreased vision in one or both eyes
  • Difficulty swallowing
  • Dizziness, loss of balance or coordination
  • Brief loss of consciousness
  • Sudden inability to move part of the body (paralysis)

Click here for Ventricular Septal Defect Treatment.

Structural Heart Disease That Develops with Age

Valvular Heart Disease
Occurs when there is damage or a defect in one of the four heart valves: mitral, aortic, tricuspid and pulmonic. A healthy valve has a set of flaps (or leaflets) that open and close fully. A person can be born with an abnormal heart valve, known as a congenital heart defect. A valve can be damaged by infection, rheumatic fever or the normal aging process.

Severe Aortic Stenosis
Severe aortic stenosis is a structural heart disease that occurs when the aortic valve doesn’t open properly due to a buildup of calcium deposits on the aortic valve which causes narrowing. This forces your heart to work harder to pump blood throughout your body. Over time, the heart muscle weakens, your overall health is affected and you are prevented from doing normal daily activities.

Left untreated, severe aortic stenosis is a serious, life-threatening condition, which may lead to heart failure, arrhythmias, and increased risk for sudden cardiac death. Severe aortic stenosis is not preventable and may be related to age. Patients with severe aortic stenosis symptoms should be considered for aortic valve replacement via traditional open heart surgery or less invasive procedures.

Signs and symptoms of severe aortic stenosis can include:

  • Chest pain or tightness
  • Feeling faint or fainting with activity
  • Shortness of breath (at rest or with activity)
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Heart murmur

Click here for Severe Aortic Stenosis Treatment.

For more details, visit Structural Heart Disease and Defects Overview and Structural Heart Disease and Defects Treatment. 


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