Atrial septal defect repair

An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a medical condition where there is a hole in the wall of the septum. The septum is the muscular wall that separates the two upper chambers of the heart, called the atria. An atrial septal defect is a defect that is present at birth. It occurs when the septum doesn't form properly.

What are the related symptoms of atrial septal defect?

In most cases, babies born with atrial septal defects don't have any symptoms, but symptoms may start showing in adulthood. Atrial septal defect symptoms may include:

  • Shortness of breath, especially when exercising
  • Fatigue
  • Swelling of legs, feet and abdomen
  • Heart palpitations
  • Stroke
  • A whooshing sound which may be heard through a stethoscope, this is called a heart murmur.

Seek immediate medical assistance if you or your child experience shortness of breath and getting tired easily, especially during or after an activity, swelling of the legs, feet or abdomen, and experiencing irregular heartbeats.

How is an atrial septal defect repaired?

Dr Dongo may recommend surgery if you have been diagnosed with a medium to a large atrial defect during childhood or in adulthood. This will then prevent future complications such as right-sided heart failure, heart rhythm abnormalities, increased stroke risk or shortened life span. If you have severe pulmonary hypertension, surgery will not be recommended it may worsen your condition.

Surgery for both adults and children involves sewing closed or patching the abnormal opening on the septum wall. Dr Dongo will evaluate the condition and determine which of the following procedures to use:

  • Open-heart surgery
    This surgery is done under general anaesthesia, and a heart-lung machine may be used during the procedure. Dr Dongo will make an incision on your chest and use a patch to close the hole.
  • Cardiac catheterization
    This procedure involves Dr Dongo inserting a catheter in your blood vessel in the groin and use imaging techniques to guide the catheter to your heart. He will then pass a mesh patch or plug through the catheter to close the hole. The heart tissue will then grow around the mesh, which will then permanently seal the hole.


A cardiothoracic surgeon is a specialist medical doctor who performs operations on the heart, lungs, esophagus, and other organs in the chest. Dr Lehlohonolo Dongo's Qualifications.


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