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What is a Septal Defect?

Also referred to as a “hole or flap in the heart," a septal defect involves blood improperly flowing between the heart's left and right chambers because of an opening in the wall that separates the two sides (the septum). There are several types of septal defects.

  • Atrial septal defect (ASD) occurs when an abnormal opening occurs between the two upper chambers of the heart, the left and the right atrium. This defect allows blood to flow back into the lungs
  • Ventricular septal defect (VSD) occurs when the opening is between the two lower chambers of the heart, the left and the right ventricle. This defect allows blood to flow back into the right ventricle instead of into the aorta.
  • Eisenmenger's Complex is a septal defect along with high blood pressure in the lungs that may also include a wrongly positioned aorta.
  • Atrioventricular canal defect occurs when the opening is between the upper and lower chambers of the heart, creating improper blood flows from the lungs.
  • Patent foramen ovale (PFO) is a flap between the top two chambers of the heart (the atria). Up to 25% of the world's population has a PFO. For a small number of people, this should be repaired.

Symptoms of Septal Defect

Some people have no symptoms. In the other cases, symptoms can include:

  • Slow growth
  • High blood pressure in the lungs
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart murmur

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UR Medicine's Treatments for Septal Defect

Treatment depends on the severity of the defect. If treatment is required, nonsurgical (percutaneous) repair or surgical repair of the opening is typically successful in restoring normal circulation.

The Structural Heart Program at UR Medicine Cardiac Care excels at nonsurgical ASD and PFO repair. To determine best treatment you may need to undergo an echocardiogram and/or a cardiac catheterization.

During the procedure, a closure device is attached to a catheter which is inserted and advanced to the heart and through the defect with the guidance of X-ray and intracardiac echo imaging. The cardiologist pushes the closure device out of the catheter slowly so that it opens to cover each edge of the defect, sealing it closed. Over time, scar tissue grows over the closure device and it becomes part of the heart.

Visit the Abbott structural heart website and the Gore Cardioform Septal Occluder website for details on the devices we use.

Patient Stories

Arrhythmia Stopped her Heart

Brynn Taylor was born with a rare, life-threatening heart defect. Weighing just 2 pounds at birth, Brynn would need to wait until she weighed 5 pounds to have open-heart surgery at UR Medicine's Golisano Children's Hospital.

What Sets Us Apart?

Structural heart disease is complex. Treating it requires a deep understanding of your condition as well as the range of treatment options. That’s why UR Medicine offers the Structural Heart Program, completely focused on treating structural and heart valve disease.

We offer a multidisciplinary team of providers who specializes in percutaneous and surgical treatments. UR Medicine can also provide every other specialist you may need, including echo-cardiologists, radiologists, and specialists in heart failure, oncology, pulmonology and our congenital cardiac care.

As the only institution in the area that is part of an academic medical center, UR Medicine Cardiac Care is involved in the latest treatment and research on septal defects.


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16 locations

Cardiac Care - Brighton

Clinton Crossings, Building G
2400 South Clinton Avenue, 1st Floor
Rochester, NY 14618

Cardiac Care - Dansville

Noyes Memorial Hospital
111 Cara Barton Street
Dansville, NY 14437

Cardiac Care - Canandaigua - Canandaigua

Thompson Professional Building
395 West Street, Suite 307
Canandaigua, NY 14424

Cardiac Care - Clifton Springs

Finger Lakes Cardiology
410 Clifton Springs Professional Park
Clifton Springs, NY 14432

Cardiac Care - Rochester

Highland Hospital
1000 South Avenue
Rochester, NY 14620

Cardiac Care - Irondequoit

999 East Ridge Road, Suite 1000
Rochester, NY 14621

Cardiac Care - Penfield

1835 Fairport Nine Mile Point Road, Suite 200
Penfield, NY 14526

Cardiac Care - Henrietta

Red Creek (Calkins Corporate Park)
600 Red Creek Drive, Suite 100
Rochester, NY 14623

Cardiac Care - Seneca Falls

Lifecare Medical Associates
1991 Balsley Road
Seneca Falls, NY 13148

Cardiac Care - Brockport

Strong West
156 West Avenue, 3rd Floor
Brockport, NY 14420

Cardiac Care - Wellsville

Jones Memorial Hospital
191 North Main Street
Wellsville, NY 14895

Paul N. Yu Heart Center - Rochester

Ambulatory Care Center at Strong Memorial Hospital
601 Elmwood Avenue, Ground Floor
Rochester, NY 14626

Cardiac Care - Brighton

140 Canal View Boulevard, Suite 102
Rochester, NY 14623

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