The idea of a "hole in the heart" as a form of congenital heart disease is one of the most familiar in the community. This term is not a technical, medical one, but one that indicates that some form of communication between the two sides of the heart exists when and where it should not. The medical terminology is a "septal defect".
The word "septum" refers to the wall dividing the left and right sides of the heart. This wall is made of muscle like the rest of the heart, and in the case of the ventricles, plays a part in the pumping work of those chambers.
It is important to know that:
These differences are very important and can mean one hole is virtually harmless and never needs any treatment, and another of a similar name can alter the way the heart works in a way that treatment with medicine or, sometime, surgery is needed.
Sometimes it is obvious very early that a baby has a septal defect which will be unimportant, and sometimes it is necessary to wait weeks or months for this to become clear (although your baby is in no danger during this time). In defects which require closure, the timing is variable depending of the type of abnormality. It is important to speak to your cardiologist and understand how he or she believes the septal defect will affect your baby it is better not to jump to conclusions about this.
Some types of septal defect include:
When septal defects occur with other heart abnormalities, these may be more or less important than the septal defect itself. Once again speak to your cardiologist so you can understand your own child's specific abnormality.
Disclaimer: This information is intended as a general guide only and not to provide specific information for individual patient care. Any questions about your own situation should be directed to your medical practitioner, or cardiac specialist, or by contacting us and asking to speak to a Clinical Nurse Consultant.