Key Points about Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

  • Ventricular septal defect – or VSD – is a heart defect that is present at birth.
  • Diagnosis of VSD is made with physical exam, imaging tests and pulse oximetry.
  • Treatment for this condition may include ongoing monitoring, medications or surgical procedures.
Common related conditions
Heart (Cardiovascular) Disease


A ventricular septal defect, or VSD, is a hole in the heart. This hole is located in the wall that separates the heart’s lower chambers. VSD is a congenital (present at birth) heart defect. VSD causes the blood to get pumped back to the lungs instead of flowing out into the body, which leads to the heart having to work harder.

If not properly managed, VSD can lead to serious complications, including:

  • Abnormal heart rhythm
  • Endocarditis
  • Heart failure
  • Heart valve problem
  • Pulmonary hypertension

Ventricular septal defect causes

VSD is caused during fetal development, but the exact cause is usually unknown.

Ventricular septal defect risk factors

Factors that can increase your risk for developing a VSD include having another genetic condition, such as Down syndrome, or having a family history of VSD.

Ventricular septal defect symptoms

Symptoms of VSD typically occur in the first days of a baby’s life. VSD symptoms can include:

  • Easy tiring
  • Failure to thrive
  • Fast breathing or trouble breathing
  • Heart murmur or extra sound heard in the heartbeat
  • Trouble eating

Ventricular septal defect diagnosis

Your cardiologist may use one or more of the following tests to diagnose this condition:

  • Complete physical exam. Your doctor will perform a comprehensive physical exam, including asking you questions about your personal and family health history.
  • Imaging tests. Your doctor may order imaging tests – such as echocardiogram, chest X-ray, electrocardiogram (ECG) or cardiac catheterization – to obtain detailed images of your heart and valves.
  • Pulse oximetry. During this simple test, a clip on your fingertip checks the amount of oxygen in your blood.

Ventricular septal defect treatment

If you are diagnosed with VSD, treatment may include:

  • Medication management. Your cardiologist may prescribe medications to decrease the amount of fluid in blood circulation and in your lungs, as well as to keep your heartbeat regular.
  • Ongoing monitoring. In many cases, a baby’s small VSD will close on its own and not require treatment. Your cardiologist will monitor the VSD. During this time, your baby may need supplemental feeding to ensure they’re getting adequate nutrition for growth and development.
  • Surgical procedure. If your VSD is large, you may need to undergo surgery to plug or patch the opening. Depending on your situation, you may be able to undergo a minimally invasive procedure or may need open-heart surgery.

When to seek care

If you experience any of these symptoms, start by voicing your concerns and symptoms to your primary care provider. From there, your doctor may suggest seeing a cardiologist for more specialized treatment. 

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