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.


UAB Medicine operates a Marfan Syndrome and Related Disorders Clinic, which is a multi-specialty clinic that includes physicians from the UAB Department of Pediatric Cardiology and the UAB Department of Genetics. Services offered include physical exams, echocardiogram/EKG, and genetic testing for diseases and conditions of the aorta, when needed. The clinic’s genetic counselor works with patients to help them better understand their condition and evaluate their risk for medical issues based on genetic testing results.

Because Marfan syndrome can affect the heart, patient care also may be provided by the UAB Congenital Heart Disease Program. The program offers the most advanced care for congenital (present at birth) heart disease, which often requires lifetime monitoring and care. Our multi-specialty team of pediatric and adult cardiologists, cardiovascular surgeons, cardiovascular anesthesiologists, and maternal-fetal medicine specialists have unique expertise in treating patients before birth and into adulthood.

UAB Medicine’s 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 expecting mothers or fathers known to have congenital heart disease. If a defect is discovered, our experts provide prenatal treatment and develop a plan for delivery and treatment after birth.

Thanks to advances in pediatric congenital care, the life expectancy for most patients now reaches far into adulthood. However, more than half of the people with congenital heart problems 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 few in the country, our expertise greatly increases the chances that symptoms will be identified early. This helps ensure that less serious problems are addressed before they develop into larger, more life-threatening issues such as heart failure, arrhythmia, residual congenital heart defects, endocarditis, and stroke.








Premature Ventricular Contraction

Premature ventricular contraction, or PVC, is a condition that causes an extra heartbeat or an abnormal heartbeat that occurs earlier than it should. This abnormality originates in the two lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles), but it also may occur in the upper chambers of the heart (the atria). Premature ventricular contraction often manifests as an additional heartbeat, followed by a pause then a stronger, quicker heartbeat. It may be described as a flutter, or the heart skipping a beat.

Premature ventricular contractions are very common in all age groups, and most people will experience them at some point in their lives. For normal, healthy people, the occasional period of premature ventricular contractions is no need for concern and typically does not require treatment. For those with an underlying health condition, such as heart disease, premature ventricular contractions may cause additional problems or be indicative of worsening conditions. PVC may be brought on by something as simple as excess caffeine, a change in the body's electrolytes, or medicines such as albuterol. More serious health conditions, such as pneumonia or COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), could trigger PVC as a result of having too little oxygen in the blood.


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