We are experiencing exceptionally high volumes in our emergency rooms.
Every patient is important to us, and we are doing all we can to provide care quickly and efficiently.
Skip to main content
Go to homepage

Print Page

A to Z: Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)

May also be called: ASD

An atrial septal defect, or ASD — sometimes referred to as a hole in the heart — is a type of congenital heart defect in which there is an abnormal opening in the dividing wall between the upper filling chambers of the heart (the atria).

More to Know

The heart has four chambers: The two lower pumping chambers (the ventricles) and the two upper filling chambers (the atria). Blood that is low in oxygen returns from the body to the right atrium before passing to the right ventricle and then to the lungs to receive oxygen. Oxygen-rich blood returns to the left atrium before passing to the left ventricle, where it is pumped out to the rest of the body.

The right and left atria are separated by a thin shared wall called the atrial septum. Kids with an ASD are born with an opening in this wall that allows oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix, increasing the total amount of blood that flows toward the lungs. The blood flowing through the hole creates an extra noise, known as a heart murmur, that can be heard when a doctor listens to the heart with a stethoscope.

Treatment for an ASD depends on the child's age and the size, location, and severity of the defect. Very small ASDs may close on their own. Larger ASDs usually won't close and must be treated medically. Most of these can be closed in a cardiac catheterization lab, although some will require open-heart surgery. Large ASDs can cause symptoms like poor appetite, poor growth, fatigue, shortness of breath, and lung problems or infections, such as pneumonia.

Keep in Mind

A small ASD will usually close without treatment within the first 2 years of a child's life. If a larger ASD is not treated, health complications can develop later, but most kids with ASDs are diagnosed and treated long before the heart defect causes physical symptoms. Typically, after repair and adequate time for healing, kids with ASDs rarely have further symptoms.

All A to Z dictionary entries are regularly reviewed by KidsHealth medical experts.

What next?

Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
There are 10 nurses in the picture.

And we have many more pediatric primary care providers in Northeast Ohio. You can meet some of them here.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The five differences are:
– Phone color
– Coat pocket
– Stethoscope earpiece color
– Stethoscope bell dot
– Clipboard paper color

Need help finding a doctor, choosing a location or getting a general question about Akron Children's answered? Call us or fill out the form and we'll help in any way we can.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The two matching doctors are 9 and 14.

With virtual visits, you can see our pediatric experts from the comfort of home or wherever you are.
Summit Mall Play Area
Answer Key:
Click to expand
The correct path:
The Correct Path
We offer many ways to get pediatric care all over Northeast Ohio. Use this page to find the right kind of care and the most convenient location for you.