A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is a common heart defect present at birth. It is characterized by a hole in the heart that occurs in the wall that separates the heart’s right and left ventricles. A doctor may first suspect a heart defect during a regular medical examination if a murmur is heard from the baby’s heart with a stethoscope. VSDs can also be detected by ultrasound before the baby is born.  

A small ventricular septal defect may occur spontaneously or with other associated heart defects. Generally, smaller VSDs tend to close on their own, while larger VSDs require surgical repair to prevent further complications.

Treatment options for ventricular septal defect typically involve taking certain medications and surgery if necessary.



Signs and symptoms of a ventricular septal defect generally appear with the first few days, weeks or months of a baby’s life. They vary depending on the size of the hole and other heart defects associated with VSD. Signs and symptoms may include:

  • Poor eating
  • Failure to gain weight
  • Rapid breathing
  • Rapid heart rate
  • Sweating while feeding
  • Tiredness
  • Paleness
  • Frequent respiratory infections



During fetal development,a wall forms to separate the heart’s left and right ventricles. Failure of a complete formation presents a hole. This hole is known as a ventricular septal defect. A VSD allows oxygenated blood to mix with deoxygenated blood, causing the heart to work with greater force in order to provide enough oxygen to the body's tissues.


Risk factors

Possible factors that can increase the risk of a ventricular septal defect include the following:

  • Having a family history of ventricular septal defects
  • Having certain genetic disorders such as Down syndrome



Possible complications that can from a ventricular septal defect include the following:

  • Pulmonary hypertension: High blood pressure in the lung arteries
  • Endocarditis: Bacterial infection of the heart
  • Abnormal heart rhythms
  • Heart valve problems
  • Pregnancy complications




In some cases, ventricular septal defect tends to close on its own. In others, treatment is required. Treatment options for ventricular septal defect tend to focus on taking certain medications to regulate any heart defects and certain surgical procedures if necessary to close the defect.

Medications for ventricular septal defect include the following:

  • Medications to help increase the strength of the heart’s contractions (Lanoxin)
  • Medications to help decrease the amount of fluid in circulation and in the lungs (Lasix)
  • Medications to help keep the heart rate under control (Lopressor, Lanoxin)

Surgical treatment for ventricular septal defects include the following:

  • Open heart surgery: A surgical procedure that involves a heart lung machine and an incision in the chest.
  •  Catheterization: A surgical procedure that involves the insertion of a thin tube into a blood vessel in the groin to direct it to the heart where a small device is used to help close the hole.
  • Hybrid procedure: A surgical procedure that involves entering the heart through a catheter and further inserting a small device into it to help close the VSD.  



While in most cases preventing a ventricular septal defect from occurring is unlikely, there are measures that can be taken to ensure a healthy pregnancy. They include the following:  

  • Eating a healthy diet
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding alcohol, cigarettes and illegal drugs
  • Reducing stress
  • Keeping vaccinations up to date to avoid any infections
  • Keeping diabetes under control
  • Consulting with a doctor about any family history of heart defects or other genetic disorders