What is a Ventricular Septal Defect?
This defect is very similar to atrial septal
defects. In this case, the hole or "defect" is in the heart muscle forming a
wall between the ventricles (the intraventricular "septum"). As in the case of
the ASD, the heart can dilate, the muscle can become weak, and the pressures in the
pulmonary arteries can increase (pulmonary hypertension) due to the increase in blood
flow. If the defect is closed, these consequences can be avoided.
Like ASDs, the size and therefore the clinical
course of these defects is quite variable. Some remain large, while others become smaller
over time. It is not unusual for small-to-medium sized VSDs to eventually close
spontaneously. Many, but not all that remain will require surgery.
If a substantial size defect is not corrected, then
the pressures in the pulmonary arteries may become very high and induce changes in the
arteries themselves such that even closure of the defect will no longer improve the
patient. In this case, the pressures in the right side of the heart are high enough that
blood may begin to flow from the right to the left side of the heart. This situation is
called "Eisenmengers syndrome", a condition which may result from several
Updated November 1997