Normal Heart Structure


What is a Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)?

A ventricular septal defect (also known as a VSD) is a hole in the heart between the two lower pumping chambers (ventricles). This hole causes increased blood flow to the lungs.


Some children will have no symptoms. Those with larger defects may become breathless, tire more easily, have slower weight gain with feeding difficulties and be more prone to respiratory infections.


A clinical examination will usually reveal a heart murmur. An echocardiogram will diagnose an VSD. An ECG will also be performed and often a chest X-ray.


Small VSDs require no treatment. Some get smaller and may even spontaneously close as the child grows. Larger ones may require treatment. The treatment approach depends on the size and shape of the hole and symptoms. Some babies may initially require treatment with liquid medicines called diuretics, which make the work of the heart easier.
Larger VSDs may require surgery. In some cases, one single open heart operation may be performed under general anaesthetic with the surgeon putting a patch on the hole. In other cases, particularly for smaller babies who are struggling to gain weight, an initial smaller operation is recommended where the surgeon places a band around the pulmonary artery. This band reduces the amount of blood which passes from the VSD to the lungs. Later when the baby is bigger a second bigger open-heart operation is performed to close the VSD hole and the band is removed. Less commonly a keyhole approach (via an interventional cardiac catheter) places a permanent device in the heart via a tube which is passed to the heart from a vein in the leg. VSD closure devices are often dumb bell shaped and made of a special mesh of a metal alloy (nitinol). Surgery involves closing the hole with a patch. Dr Naqvi works with an excellent team of NICOR audited congenital cardiac surgeons and if needed will refer your child to the one who is best for your child’s heart.


The outlook for children with an isolated VSD is usually excellent. Dr Naqvi has cared for many babies and children with VSDs and has followed them up until adulthood. She says “Having a VSD early in life does not stop children doing well in sports or from having a happy full life. I know many who are in school teams and even competing at county level.
I even know patients who have achieved 10 A stars at GCSE despite having heart problems in childhood.” There are a number of well-known people with congenital heart disease including Brian Littrell, one of the Backstreet Boys (the World’s bestselling boy band), who has had a VSD surgically repaired.
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Disclaimer: The opinions and facts shown in this article are as accurate and up to date as possible, but are provided as general “information resources”, which may not be relevant to individual persons. This article is not a substitute for individual assessment and always take advice from a paediatric cardiologist who is familiar with the particular person.