Madeline Vann, MPH
The heart is divided into four chambers that help circulate blood through the body. The top two chambers are called atria. The bottom two chambers are called ventricles. Two valves are between the upper and lower chambers. Tissue called the septum divides the chambers. The tissue grows as the fetus develops.
An atrioventricular septal defect is present at birth. It occurs when any of the tissues that divide the septum do not grow completely. This leaves one or more holes. It may also leave one leaky valve instead of two separate valves.
This condition is caused when the septal tissue fails to grow correctly as the fetus develops in the womb.
Risk factors that increase the chance that a baby will be born with a ventricular septal defect include:
Your doctor will ask about your baby's symptoms and medical history. A physical exam will be done.
Most types of congenital heart disease can be identified by listening for a heart murmur.
Your doctor may need pictures of your baby's heart. This can be done with a
Your doctor may need information about how your baby's heart functions. This can be done with:
A doctor may recommend any of the following treatments for your baby:
It may not be possible to prevent the condition because the exact cause is unknown. A septal defect can be identified, watched, and treated early in pregnancy and childhood:
American Association of Family Physicians
American Heart Association
Canadian Adult Congenital Heart Network
Canadian Heart and Stroke Foundation
Atrioventricular septal defect, complete. Cove Point Foundation website. Available at:
http://www.pted.org/?id=atrioventricularcomplete1. Updated May 16, 2011. Accessed July 11, 2013.
Patent foramen ovale and other atrial septal defects. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
Updated April 29, 2013. Accessed July 11, 2013.
Saenz R, Beebe D, Triplett L. Caring for infants with congenital heart disease and their families.
Am Fam Physician. 1999;59. Available at: http://www.aafp.org/afp/1999/0401/p1857.html. Accessed July 11, 2013.
Ventricular septal defect. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at:
Updated June 14, 2012. Accessed July 11, 2013.
Last reviewed July 2013 by Michael J. Fucci, DO; Michael Woods, MD
Please be aware that this information is provided to supplement the care provided by your physician. It is neither intended nor implied to be a substitute for professional medical advice. CALL YOUR HEALTHCARE PROVIDER IMMEDIATELY IF YOU THINK YOU MAY HAVE A MEDICAL EMERGENCY. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider prior to starting any new treatment or with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.
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