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Ventricular Septal Defect

A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is the most common congenital heart defect, or heart defect that's present since birth. Children born with a VSD have a hole in the heart wall, called the septum, that separates the left and right lower chambers, called the ventricles. If the hole is large, too much blood is pumped into the lungs, making the heart work harder than normal. This may lead to congestive heart failure. Congestive heart failure does not mean the heart has failed or stopped; it means one or more chambers of the heart fail to keep up with the volume of blood flowing through them.

Most patients with a VSD were born with the condition, but the defect does occur, in rare cases, in adults after a heart attack.

Small ventricular septal defects (VSD) typically don't cause symptoms. However, larger VSDs can overwork the heart and cause the following symptoms:

  • An enlarged heart caused by pumping extra blood
  • High blood pressure in blood vessels in the lungs, which over time could permanently damage vessel walls
  • Shortness of breath and sweating
  • Significant fatigue
  • Trouble eating and gaining weight

To diagnose ventricular septal defect, your child's doctor will conduct a thorough medical exam. The following tests may also be performed:

Many ventricular septal defects (VSDs) are small and close on their own during childhood and adolescence without treatment. However, larger VSDs and those causing heart problems require repair, preferably in the first two years of life before serious heart problems develop.

Depending on the size and location of the VSD, open heart surgery or a less invasive procedure using a synthetic patch will be used for repair.

VSDs repaired with a synthetic patch use a technique called cardiac catheterization, which is performed in our Pediatric Cardiac Catheterization Laboratory.

A catheter is a thin, flexible tube inserted through a tiny incision in the groin into the blood vessels and threaded through the vessels to the heart. Catheters can carry devices to patch the heart.

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Reviewed by health care specialists at UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital.

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UCSF Clinics & Centers

Heart Center

Cardiac Intensive Care Unit
505 Parnassus Ave., Seventh Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-1955
Fax: (415) 353-9144

Cardiothoracic Surgery Program
513 Parnassus Ave., Suite S549
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 476–3501
Fax: (415) 746–9678

Interventional Cardiology Program
505 Parnassus Ave.
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-4704
Fax: (415) 353-4144
Appointment information

Pediatric Heart Center Clinic at Parnassus
400 Parnassus Ave., Second Floor
San Francisco, CA 94143
Phone: (415) 353-2008
Fax: (415) 353-2334
Appointment information