​Atrial Septal Defect


Atrial septal defect (ASD), a congenital (present from birth) heart disorder, is an opening in the atrial septum (wall that separates the two upper chambers of the heart).

The opening in the atrial septum allows the blood from either side to mix, decreasing the efficiency of the heart’s function. 

Symptoms of atrial septal defect may not appear until adulthood despite the presence of the defect since birth. When symptoms do occur, they include:

  • Difficulty in breathing

  • Frequent respiratory infections

  • Shortness of breath

  • Fatigue

​ASD may be revealed during an X-ray done for another reason. For further consultation bring your child to the Children's Hospital Service Line at The Aga Khan University Hospital.

​Your time with your doctor maybe limited, so make sure to prepare for your visit beforehand. Here are some tips to help get you started.

The doctor may hear a heart murmur (caused by the extra blood from the ASD flowing through the pulmonary valve) during a routine check-up. For an accurate diagnosis, the doctor may carry out a physical exam, listen to your child’s heart and lungs with a stethoscope and request a number of tests, depending on your child’s age, general health and your personal preferences. These tests include:

  • Echocardiogram in which sound waves, directed at the heart from a device (transducer) placed on the chest, are used to produce images of the heart. The doctor studies the images to see the blood flow through the atrial septal opening and to determine the size of the opening 

  • Electrocardiogram (ECG) in which the electrical activity of the heart is recorded to detect any irregularity in the rhythm (arrhythmia) and heart muscles stress

  • Chest X-ray to detect any enlargement of the heart which is caused by large amount of blood in the right atrium and ventricle​

In this age, medical advancement has allowed disorders like ASD to be treated successfully with minimum complications. Moreover, our doctor at the Children's Hospital Services at The Aga Khan University Hospital specializes in treating children with ASD.

Treatment will depend on your child’s age, overall health, medical history, extent of the disease and your personal opinion. Mild cases of ASD might resolve on their own as your child grows. The opening is repaired if it does not close by the time your child starts school. It is preferable to treat ASDs during childhood to prevent complications later on in life. Treatment may include:

  • Medical management such as diuretics to help the kidneys in removing excess fluid and digoxin to help strengthen the heart muscles​​​

  • Cardiac catheterization in which a small, thin, flexible tube (catheter) is inserted into a blood vessel in the groin and threaded up inside the heart. An umbrella-shaped patch, called a septal occludar, is passed through the catheter into the defect to cover the hole. This procedure is used in severe cases and requires only a small incision. Your child will be sedated during the procedure

  • Surgical repair if cardiac catheterization is not an option. The defect may be closed with stitches or a special tissue patch. The surgery is done under general anaesthesia. While the surgery is being performed, your child will be connected to a heart-lung machine, which will take over the heart’s function temporarily 

Your child will have to visit the doctor for regular check-ups and take blood thinning medications to prevent blood clots and to aid the healing process.

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers various support services to help with managing or recovering from the disease or condition. These include but are not limited to nutrition, physiotherapy, rehabilitation, specialized clinics and some patient support groups. Your doctor or nurse will advise you accordingly.​

The Aga Khan University Hospital offers financial assistance to those who are in need and fulfil the eligibility criteria. For further information, you can contact the Patient Welfare Department. You can find the contact number of the Patient Welfare Department in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.

The financial counselling staff is available during office hours, at the main PBSD (Patient Business Services Department), to answer your financial queries on treatments’ costs and authorize admissions on partial deposit as per hospital policies allow. The financial counsellor in the emergency room is open 24/7. You can find the contact number of the Patient Business Services in the ‘Important Numbers’ section on the website homepage.​



The information provided on our website is for educational purposes and not intended to be a substitute for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. You should always seek the advice of your doctor or other healthcare professional provider. ​