What is Atrial Septal Defect in Children?

Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a hole in the wall (septum) that separates the upper chambers of the heart, called atria. This defect allows oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix. This reduces the amount of oxygen going through the body.

Pediatric Cardiologist Near You

Pediatric Cardiologists

Signs & Symptoms

Atrial septal defect in children can cause a range of symptoms including: 

  • Fatigue
  • Poor weight gain
  • Shortness of breath
  • An abnormal heart murmur

If the hole grows larger, children may experience additional symptoms including:

  • Chest pain
  • Discomfort
  • Rapid breathing
  • Palpitations
  • Lightheadedness
  • Bluish tint to the skin, lips, and fingernails 

Risk Factors

Risk factors for ASD in children include: 

  • Genetic mutations that alter heart development
  • Improper formation of the fetal heart during pregnancy
  • Infection with certain virus
  • Maternal diabetes
  • Medical conditions in the mother during pregnancy

A happy and smiling little girl in piggy tailsDiagnosis

Physicians will use a variety of tests and imaging techniques to diagnose ASD. These include: 

  • Physical examination
  • Electrocardiogram
  • Echocardiography
  • Cardiac Catheterization
  • Chest X-rays


The treatment for atrial septal defect (ASD) in children depends on the size and location of the defect. 

  • Smaller holes may not require any treatment.
  • Larger holes may require a minimally invasive procedure known as device occlusion that involves the placement of a small device through a catheter that seals the defect. 
  • Medication can sometimes help reduce symptoms. 
  • Open-heart surgery may be warranted to close the hole in the septum with sutures.

CHRISTUS Children's - The Heart Center

CHRISTUS Children's specializes in pediatric care for infants, children and adolescents as well as maternal and fetal care for women with high-risk and routine pregnancies. From birth to age 18, CHRISTUS Children’s provides comprehensive, coordinated care from a team of pediatric and maternal experts.

Visit the Heart Center