Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) is a defect in the ventricular septum, the wall dividing the left and right ventricles of the heart.
The ventricular septum consists of an inferior muscular and superior membranous portion and is extensively innervated with conducting cardiomyocytes.
The membranous portion, which is close to the atrioventricular node, is most commonly affected in adults and older children in the United States. It is also the type that will most commonly require surgical intervention, comprising over 80% of cases.
Membranous ventricular septal defects are more common than muscular ventricular septal defects, and are the most common congenital cardiac anomaly.
Epidemiology and Etiology
VSDs are the most common congenital cardiac anomalies. They are found in 30-60% of all newborns with a congenital heart defect, or about 2-6 per 1000 births. During heart formation, when the heart begins life as a hollow tube, it begins to partition, forming a septal. If this does not occur properly it can lead to an opening being left within the ventricular septum. It is debatable whether all those defects are true heart defects, or if some of them are normal phenomena, since most of the trabecular VSDs close spontaneously. Prospective studies give a prevalence of 2-5 per 100 births of trabecular VSDs that closes shortly after birth in 80-90% of the cases.
A VSD can be detected by cardiac auscultation. Classically, a VSD causes a pathognomonic holo- or pansystolic murmur. Auscultation is generally considered sufficient for detecting a significant VSD. The murmur depends on the abnormal flow of blood from the left ventricle, through the VSD, to the right ventricle. If there is not much difference in pressure between the left and right ventricles, then the flow of blood through the VSD will not be very great and the VSD may be silent. This situation occurs a) in the fetus (when the right and left ventricular pressures are essentially equal), b) for a short time after birth (before the right ventricular pressure has decreased), and c) as a late complication of unrepaired VSD. Confirmation of cardiac auscultation can be obtained by non-invasive cardiac ultrasound (echocardiography). To more accurately measure ventricular pressures, cardiac catheterization, can be performed.
During ventricular contraction, or systole, some of the blood from the left ventricle leaks into the right ventricle, passes through the lungs and reenters the left ventricle via the pulmonary veins and left atrium. This has two net effects. First, the circuitous refluxing of blood causes volume overload on the left ventricle. Second, because the left ventricle normally has a much higher systolic pressure (~120 mm Hg) than the right ventricle (~20 mm Hg), the leakage of blood into the right ventricle therefore elevates right ventricular pressure and volume, causing pulmonary hypertension with its associated symptoms.
In serious cases, the pulmonary arterial pressure can reach levels that equal the systemic pressure. This reverses the left to right shunt, so that blood then flows from the right ventricle into the left ventricle, resulting in cyanosis, as blood is by-passing the lungs for oxygenation.
This effect is more noticeable in patients with larger defects, who may present with breathlessness, poor feeding and failure to thrive in infancy. Patients with smaller defects may be asymptomatic. Four different septal defects exist, with perimembranous most common, outlet, atrioventricular, and muscular less commonly.
Signs and symptoms
Ventricular septal defect is usually symptomless at birth. It usually manifests a few weeks after birth.
VSD is an acyanotic congenital heart defect, aka a Left-to-right shunt, so there are no signs of cyanosis.
  • Pansystolic (Holosystolic) murmur (depending upon the size of the defect) +/- palpable thrill (palpable turbulence of blood flow). Heart sounds are normal. Larger VSDs may cause a parasternal heave, a displaced apex beat (the palpable heartbeat moves laterally over time, as the heart enlarges). An infant with a large VSD will fail to thrive and become sweaty and tachypnoeic (breathe faster) with feeds.
CAUSES: The cause of VSD ( ventricular septal defect) includes the incomplete looping of the heart during days 24-28 of development. Faults with NKX2.5 gene can cause this.

A nitinol device for closing muscular VSDs, 4 mm diameter in the centre. It is shown mounted on the catheter into which it will be withdrawn during insertion.
Most cases do not need treatment and heal at the first years of life. Treatment is either conservative or surgical. Smaller congenital VSDs often close on their own, as the heart grows, and in such cases may be treated conservatively. Some cases may necessitate surgical intervention, i.e. with the following indications:
  1. Failure of congestive cardiac failure to respond to medications
  2. VSD with pulmonic stenosis
  3. Large VSD with pulmonary hypertension
  4. VSD with aortic regurgitation
For the surgical procedure, a heart-lung machine is required and a median sternotomy is performed. Percutaneous endovascular procedures are less invasive and can be done on a beating heart, but are only suitable for certain patients. Repair of most VSDs is complicated by the fact that the conducting system of the heart is in the immediate vicinity.
Ventricular septum defect in infants is initially treated medically with cardiac glycosides (e.g., digoxin 10-20mcg/kg per day), loop diuretics (e.g., furosemide 13 mg/kg per day) and ACE inhibitors (e.g., captopril 0.52 mg/kg per day).
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