Atrial Septal Defect
An atrial septal defect is an abnormal opening between the heart's upper chambers. It is a common congenital (present from birth) heart defect. Smaller atrial septal defects may close on their own during infancy or early childhood or may be diagnosed and treated successfully with few or no complications. However, large and longstanding atrial septal defects can damage the heart and lungs. Large atrial septal defects allow extra blood volume, which can overfill the lungs and overwork the heart. If it is not treated, the right side of the heart enlarges and weakens. Adults who have not been diagnosed for many years may have a shorter life span from heart failure, a stroke, heart rhythm abnormalities or high blood pressure in the lungs. Atrial septal defects are not always diagnosed as early in life as other types of heart problems because the heart murmur it produces is faint and can be difficult for doctors to hear. It may be diagnosed at any time between infancy and adolescence or as late as adulthood.
The UAB Congenital Heart Disease Program offers the most advanced care for structural heart disease, which often requires lifetime monitoring and care. Our multidisciplinary team of pediatric and adult cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, cardiovascular anesthesiologists, and maternal/fetal medicine specialists are uniquely qualified to treat patients before birth and into adulthood. In addition to seeing patients at the UAB Women & Infants Center and The Kirklin Clinic of UAB Hospital, UAB Medicine’s congenital heart disease specialists also see patients at North Alabama Children's Specialists in Huntsville and Physicians to Children/Central Alabama Children's Specialists in Montgomery.
Our modern ultrasound equipment allows many heart defects to be diagnosed before a child is born. Screening exams performed at 18-20 weeks are recommended for expectant mothers (or fathers) known to have congenital heart disease. If a defect is discovered, prenatal treatment and planning for delivery and postnatal treatment can be undertaken.
Thanks to advances in pediatric congenital care, the life expectancy for most patients now reaches far into adulthood, but more than 60% stop seeing a cardiologist once they turn 18. UAB’s Alabama Adult Congenital Heart Disease Program is designed to prevent that gap in care. As the only adult congenital heart disease program in the state and one of only a handful in the country, our expertise greatly increases the chances that symptoms will be identified early. This helps ensure that smaller problems are addressed before they develop into larger, more life-threatening issues such as heart failure, arrhythmia, residual congenital heart defects, endocarditis, and stroke.
Dr. Cribbs on Business Break
More than 20,000 adults enter the Adult Congenital Heart Disease population every year, but 60% are lost to follow-up care.
Care of Adults with Congenital Heart Disease
Individuals born with congenital heart disease are now thriving into adulthood, but need lifelong follow-up care from sub-specialty experts.
Adult Congenital Heart Disease Risk Factors, Symptoms & Treatments
Some people are born with a defect or malformation in their heart or blood vessels, and this is called Congenital Heart Disease. UAB Cardiologist Edward Colvin, MD, talks to Daytime Alabama on WVTM-TV, Channel 13, in Birmingham, Ala., about the types of congenital heart disease and what adults with this disease should look for when choosing a doctor.
Patent Foramen Ovale
A patent foramen ovale is a small hole in the heart that does not close the way it should after birth. During a baby's development, the foramen ovale, a small flap-like opening, is located in the atrial septum between the right and left upper chambers of the heart. It allows blood to go around the lungs during fetal circulation to speed up the travel of blood through the heart. It normally closes during infancy, but if it does not it is called a patent foramen ovale, or PFO. In about one out of four people, the hole does not close. Most people do not even know they have the condition until it is discovered during tests or while seeking treatment for other problems, such as a stroke.
PFOs usually cause no symptoms, and less than 1 percent of people ever need to have a PFO closed. Having a PFO may be upsetting, but most never need treatment. The cause of a PFO is unknown, and there are no known risk factors. Infants with a PFO but no other heart abnormalities should enjoy normal health.
UAB is an active participant in research and clinical trials for the diagnosis and treatment of atrial septal defect . We encourage you to speak to your physician about research and clinical trial options and browse the link below for more information.View Clinical Trials
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