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What is an Atrial Septal Defect Repair?

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  • Written By: Eric Stolze
  • Edited By: J.T. Gale
  • Last Modified Date: 29 November 2016
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An atrial septal defect repair is a surgical procedure that aims to correct a congenital heart defect called an atrial septal defect (ASD). Infants born with ASD have a defect within the atrial septum — the wall that divides and separates the uppermost chambers of the heart. This wall usually closes during fetal development. Babies with ASD have an opening in the wall that allows oxygenated blood to pass from the left atrium into the right atrium. This disorder limits the amount of oxygen-rich blood that can be supplied from the heart to the rest of the body.

ASD is generally not a common disorder and may be more prevalent in infants with genetic abnormalities or babies whose mothers were exposed to environmental toxins. Children with an atrial septal defect may develop either a hole inside the atrial septum that is always open or a flap between the two atrial chambers that occasionally opens. A flap type of ASD typically opens and allows blood to move through the septum when abnormal chest pressure develops due to straining during a bowel movement, cough, or sneeze.

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Children with ASD may experience a variety of symptoms including fatigue, tiring easily during play, and poor growth. Shortness of breath, rapid breathing, and frequent infections of the respiratory system have occurred in some children with this medical condition. Patients with small or medium-sized atrial septal defects may not experience symptoms until they are middle-age adults. In some cases, a physician may notice a heart murmur when he or she listens to the heartbeat of an ASD patient.

Infants and young children with large atrial septal defects, noticeable symptoms of ASD, or a swollen heart typically require atrial septal defect repair. This repair may be performed during a robotically assisted surgery procedure. Robotically assisted atrial septal defect repair surgery usually has several advantages over traditional ASD surgery including smaller incisions, shorter hospital stays, and faster recovery. A surgeon typically uses a small chest incision and works with robotically assisted endoscopic instruments to close the opening between a patient’s two atrial chambers.

Some ASD patients undergo a different type of atrial septal defect repair procedure where an endoscope is inserted directly into a blood vessel in the groin region and is moved to the heart to close the defect. Patients with milder forms of ASD may receive medications, such as digoxin, to strengthen the heart muscle or diuretics to improve fluid control in the body rather than atrial septal defect repair surgery. Many people with an atrial septal defect take preventive antibiotic drugs before a dental procedure to reduce the likelihood of an endocarditis infection.

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