Atrialventricular Septal Defects

logoswMost of us are lucky enough to have healthy hearts but some people are not quite so lucky.

A very common problem with hearts that can affect children is called Atrialventricular septal defects (ASDs) – also known as ‘a hole in the heart’.

One in every hundred children will have this so in your year at school there may be one or even a few children with it.

The heart is a powerful muscle. Blood from the lungs, packed with oxygen is squeezed around the body by the heart muscle contracting and relaxing.

nml_septumBetween the top right and top left sides of the heart is a wall called the septum that normally separates the blood coming into the heart and the blood flowing away from it.

In a person with an atrial septal defect, there’s an opening in that wall.

Sometimes the hole is tiny – sometimes it’s big. It’s often impossible to say why some children are born with ASDs – often it’s just the way they developed in the womb.

One thing we do know is that leaks are never great. Maybe you’ve got a flat tyre on your bike or had a drinks bottle with a hole… at best leaks are annoying and at worst they can cause some serious problems.

This hole in the wall inside the heart lets oxygen-rich blood from the left atrium leak into the oxygen-poor blood on the other side.

This means the body won’t be getting all the good rich blood it should.

Quite often the hole is so tiny that it doesn’t cause too many problems; sometimes they even close by themselves but larger holes can make it difficult to exercise and lead to you feeling quite poorly a lot of the time.

Stethoscope_mediumSo how do doctor’s know you’ve got one? 

It’s all to do with the Lub Dub.

The Lub Dub is the noise a healthy heart makes. When the doctor listens to your heart with his stethoscope, he should hear a Lub Dub sound.

However, ASDs cause the heart to sound more ‘swooshy’.

> Visit the Heart Beat homepage
> Download the free Heart Beat podcast from iTunes

Professor Hallux’s Heart Beat funding thanks to a Heart Research UK healthy heart grant!