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What is ventricular septal defect?

Babies born with ventricular (pronounced ven-TRIH-ku-lar) septal defect (VSD) have a hole in the wall of their heart between the two lower chambers (right and left ventricles) where the blood leaves the heart. This wall is the ventricular septum.

Blood comes from the body into the right atrium. Then it flows into the right ventricle. The right ventricle pumps it to the lungs to get oxygen. Next, blood travels from the lungs to the left atrium. Then it flows into the left ventricle, which pumps it out to the rest of the body.

Normally, blood cannot pass between the ventricles. But when there is a hole between the sides of the heart, some oxygen-rich blood leaks from the left ventricle into the right ventricle and goes back to the lungs.

The hole may be small and cause no symptoms, or it may be large and cause serious problems with blood flow. If the hole is large, too much blood will be pumped to the lungs, leading to congestive heart failure.

Also, the heart will have to work harder to pump blood to the body. As a result of the extra work, the heart can get bigger.

Ventricular Septal Defect in Children

VSD is the most common heart birth defect. About 3 in every 1,000 babies has it.

VSD is often referred to as a hole in the heart. It happens early in the baby’s development when the heart is forming.

Some children with VSD have other heart defects, like atrial septal defect. Some have other genetic conditions that increase the risk for VSD, like Down syndrome.

Ventricular Septal Defect at Seattle Children’s

Our heart team has extensive experience with the treatment patients may require for VSD, including using cardiac catheterization to place a device that closes the hole in the septum, doing surgery to close the hole or doing a hybrid procedure. We also have a pediatric cardiac anesthesia team and a cardiac intensive care unit ready to care for children who undergo heart surgery.

When you come to Children’s, a team of people will take care of your child. Along with your child’s heart doctor (cardiologist), you are connected with newborn specialists (neonatologists), pulmonologists (lung doctors), nurses, child life specialists, social workers and others, if their expertise is needed. We work together to meet all of your child’s health needs and help your family through this experience.

Children’s has been treating children since 1907. Our team members are trained in their fields and in meeting the unique needs of children. For example, the doctors who give your child anesthesia (sedation) are board certified in pediatric anesthesiology. This means they have extra years of training in how to take care of kids. Our child life specialists know how to help children understand their illnesses and treatments in ways that make sense for their age.

The Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program shared by Children’s and the University of Washington can help with care throughout your child’s life.

Contact Us

Contact the Heart Center at 206-987-2015 for a cardiac referral, a second opinion or more information.


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Summer 2014: Good Growing Newsletter

In This Issue

  • Understanding the Power and Influence of Role Models
  • Legal Marijuana Means Greater Poisoning Risks for Children
  • Why Choose Pediatric Emergency Care?

Download Summer 2014 (PDF)