Treatment for atrial septal defects

Because of the problems they can cause when you’re an adult, if you have a large atrial septal defect you would  needto have treatment. You should have  the treatment as young as possible so that your atrial septal defect has less chance to do any damage to your health.

Small atrial septal defects
Quite often if you have a small atrial septal defect you don’t have problems so you don’t have to have treatment at all, or may  just need to take blood thinning drugs. Researchers are still looking at whether there is a link between small atrial septal defects and the risk of having a stroke, so advice could change in the future.

Surgical closure
You may be able to have your atrial septal defect closed through open heart surgery. Small holes can be closed by a process called suturing, which basically means sewing it up with thread made of prolene or polypropylene. Bigger holes are covered with patches made of pieces of pericardium – that’s the membrane that covers the heart – or of silk or a synthetic material such as Dacron or Teflon.
Trans-catheter closure
If you don’t have open heart surgery, you might have a procedure called trans-catheter closure. In this operation, a cardiologist  repairs your heart through a very small tube called a catheter. The catheter is quite small and is put into your body through a vein in your groin (that’s the inside of the top of your thigh) or through your forearm, and it goes into your heart by following the vena cava.

Because people with atrial septal defects sometimes develop irregular heartbeats, they may have to be monitored by their specialist or GP.