Atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital heart defect in which blood flows between the atria (upper chambers) of the heart. Normally, the atria are separated by a dividing wall, the interatrial septum. If this septum is defective or absent, then oxygen-rich blood can flow directly from the left side of the heart to mix with the oxygen-poor blood in the right side of the heart, or vice versa. This can lead to lower-than-normal oxygen levels in the arterial blood that supplies the brain, organs, and tissues. However, an ASD may not produce noticeable signs or symptoms, especially if the defect is small.
A "shunt" is the presence of a net flow of blood through the defect, either from left to right or right to left. The amount of shunting present, if any, determines the hemodynamic significance of the ASD. A "right-to-left-shunt" typically poses the more dangerous scenario.
During development of the fetus, the interatrial septum develops to separate the left and right atria. However, a hole in the septum called the foramen ovale, allows blood from the right atrium to enter the left atrium during fetal development. This opening allows blood to bypass the nonfunctional fetal lungs while the fetus obtains its oxygen from the placenta. A layer of tissue called the septum primum acts as a valve over the foramen ovale during fetal development. After birth, the pressure in the right side of the heart drops as the lungs open and begin working, causing the foramen ovale to close entirely. In approximately 25% of adults, the foramen ovale does not entirely seal. In these cases, any elevation of the pressure in the pulmonary circulatory system (due to pulmonary hypertension, temporarily while coughing, etc.) can cause the foramen ovale to remain open. This is known as a patent foramen ovale (PFO), a type of atrial septal defect.
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sinha r, thangaswamy cr, muthiah t, chandra p, subramaniam r. prolonged postoperative desaturation in a child with down syndrome and atrial septal defect. indian j anaesth [serial online] 2011 [cited 2016 jul 29];55:608-10. available from: http://www.ijaweb.org/text.asp?2011/55/6/608/90619
desai pm, umbarkar sr, sarkar ms, lohiya r. conscious sedation using dexmedetomidine for percutaneous transcatheter closure of atrial septal defects: a single center experience. ann card anaesth [serial online] 2016 [cited 2016 jul 29];19:463-7. available from: http://www.annals.in/text.asp?2016/19/3/463/185528
http://www.hindawi.com/journals/crp/2012/584236/ chodchanok vijarnsorn, kritvikrom durongpisitkul, prakul chanthong, et al., “transcatheter closure of atrial septal defects in children, middle-aged adults, and older adults: failure rates, early complications; and balloon sizing effects,” cardiology research and practice, vol. 2012, article id 584236, 9 pages, 2012. doi:10.1155/2012/584236