If you or someone you love has been diagnosed with a septal defect of the heart, it’s important to know that the cardiac surgery team at Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular Center has extensive experience in treating this structural heart condition.
You can rely on our experts for a comprehensive evaluation of your condition and the most appropriate treatment recommendations for your individual situation.
What is a septal defect?
A septal defect is a hole or opening in the muscular wall between the two atrial (upper) or ventricular (lower) chambers of the heart. Types of septal defects include:
- Atrial septal defect (ASD)
- Patent foramen ovale (PFO)
- Ventricular septal defect (VSD)
Many septal defects begin at birth, when holes normally open during fetal development don’t close at birth like they should. Some defects can close on their own during childhood. Other small septal defects don’t close but also don’t cause problems, so treatment isn’t required.
Many larger or persistent septal defects, however, eventually require surgical correction because they can cause complications such as heart failure, arrhythmias (heart rhythm disorders) or stroke.
How we treat septal defects
There are several options for correcting septal defects. Which one is right for you depends on many factors. That’s why we partner with you and your cardiologist to decide which approach is best.
Catheter-based treatment: In this procedure, the doctor inserts a catheter (thin, hollow tube) into a blood vessel in the groin and guides it to the heart using X-ray imaging. Through the catheter, the doctor places a mesh patch or plug to close the hole in the heart wall; the heart tissue grows around the mesh, permanently sealing the hole.
Open-chest surgery: Through an incision in the chest and by separating the breastbone (called a sternotomy), the surgeon accesses the heart and uses patches the close the defect. This type of surgery requires use of a heart-lung machine.
Minimally invasive surgery: Many types of septal defects can be performed using endoscopic robotic technology. This offers smaller incisions, a shorter hospital stay (3 days, on average) and faster recovery than open-chest surgery. At Northwest Regional Heart & Vascular, septal defect closure frequently can be performed using minimally invasive surgery.
Many atrial septal defects can be closed with your own tissue using minimally invasive surgical techniques. This avoids placing a foreign body (patch or plug) that requires you to take blood-thinning medication after surgery.