Common Heart Abnormalities You Should Know About

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, congenital heart defects are the most common type of congenital disability and affect nearly 1% of the annual births in the country. There are at least 18 types of documented deficiencies that affect the walls, valves or blood vessels in the heart. Below are a few of the most common defects, their attributes and potential treatments.

Atrial Septal Defect (ASD)
An ASD occurs when there is a hole in the wall between the upper chambers of the heart. When oxygen-rich blood combines with oxygen-poor blood, it makes the lungs and heart work harder and can do severe damage to the lung arteries. If the hole is small, treatment may not be necessary. If the hole is large, open-heart surgery may be required to close it.

Ebstein’s Anomaly
Ebstein’s Anomaly occurs at birth. It affects the tricuspid valve that separates the right atrium (the chamber that receives blood) from the right ventricle (the chamber that pumps blood into the lungs). This defect occurs when one of the valves in the right chamber sits lower than normal, preventing it from closing tightly and resulting in potential blood leakage from the lower to upper heart chambers. This can enlarge the right atrium and can put significant stress on the body, causing shortness of breath. Depending on the severity of the enlargement, surgery to repair or replace the valve may or may not be necessary. During the operation, the valve can’t be made entirely normal, but it significantly reduces the amount of leaking.

Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)
According to the American Heart Association, VSD accounts for about 20% of all congenital heart defects. VSD involves small- to large-sized holes in the lower heart chambers that result in heart murmurs. Hearing the heart murmurs is how doctors typically diagnose VSD. With a more massive hole, the chance of congestive heart failure increases, as excessive blood flow crossing from the hole to the left ventricle and back into the lungs can ultimately flood the lungs. VSD is monitored to decide if surgery is necessary; if heart failure occurs, surgery is performed to close the holes.

Speak to your healthcare professional about heart screenings and ways to maintain a healthy heart.