Atrioventricular septal defects are heart defects present at birth.
The heart is divided into four chambers that help circulate blood through the body. The top two chambers are called atria and the bottom two are ventricles. Two valves exist between the upper and lower chambers; the tricuspid valve on the right side of the heart, and the mitral valve on the left side. Tissue, called the septum, divides the chambers and grows as the fetus develops in the womb.
An atrioventricular septal defect is the failure of any of the tissues that help divide the chambers to grow completely, leaving one or more “holes,” and possibly one leaky valve instead of two separate valves. It is possible for this defect to show up as only one small hole, or as multiple holes, and tissue development problems.
Depending on the severity of the defect, the heart may have to work much harder to circulate blood correctly through the body. Open-heart surgery is often required to correct the defect in babies before there is damage to the pulmonary circulation.
The simplest form of the defect is
atrial septal defect
, which is a hole between the top two chambers (atria) of the heart that causes blood to flow from left to right instead of correctly through the heart.
During development in the womb, the septal tissue fails to grow correctly, resulting in an atrioventricular septal defect.
The best way to diagnose an atrioventricular septal defect is an
, a test that uses high-frequency sound waves (ultrasound) to examine the size, shape, and motion of the heart.
Many times the diagnosis can be made before the baby is born. A doctor will also listen for a heart murmur, although a murmur is not always predictive of the size of the defect. The doctor will analyze the level of oxygen in the blood, conduct an
(a test that records the heart’s activity by measuring electrical currents through the heart muscle), and take a 2-D echocardiogram of the heart.
The doctor may use a catheter to test the blood pressure of the artery leading from the heart to the lungs to find out if the blood is flowing at a normal or faster than normal pace, indicating that the heart has to work harder than usual. A
can by used to check the size of the heart.
A doctor may recommend any of the following treatments for your baby:
Medicines to strengthen the heart, keep the heartbeat regular, or decrease the amount of fluid in circulation
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