Human heart comprises of four essential chambers that regulate its normal pumping action and keeps an individual healthy. The two chambers located at bottom area of heart are known as ‘ventricles’ and the separation wall between them is called as ‘septum’. Ventricular septal defects (VSD) is a serious birth defect that arises due to hole in septum of the ventricle section. Generally, small VSDs do not require any significant treatment as they have a capability to close on their own. However, medium to large-sized VSDs requires a surgical treatment as they may considerably limit children from playing sports and doing various physical activities and deteriorate their quality of life.
Signs and Symptoms of Ventricular Septal Defects
Infants and young children may not experience any symptoms of VSDs especially when they are small in size. However, its symptoms may begin to appear in late childhood phase. The following list elaborates some of the major signs and symptoms of ventricular septal defects (VSD).
- Fast Breathing or Breathlessness – Children who experience problems such as fast breathing or breathlessness after performing any physical activity could be suffering from condition of VSD.
- Extreme Tiredness – Children who experience tiredness all day long without any specific reason are likely to have VSD in their hearts.
- Frequent Respiratory Infections – Frequently occurring respiratory infections is the most prominent sign of VSD. Therefore, children who encounter respiratory infections more often must undergo a medical evaluation for precise diagnosis.
- Excessive Sweating – It is one of the most common symptoms associated with VSD. Children struggling with unrecognized VSD may have to face excessive sweating.
- No Weight Gain – Children who do not gain weight should consult a well-experienced doctor for understanding the underlying cause. It could be a potential sign of VSD.
Patients experiencing such symptoms must seek a prompt medical assistance for avoiding serious complications in future.
Causes and Risk Factors for Ventricular Septal Defects
There are no known causes for the development of VSDs in heart. Medical practitioners state that some environmental factors and faulty genes may give rise to such health condition. Sometimes, VSDs may also come into existence following a heart attack. In addition to this, children who have a family history of VSDs and genetic disorders such as Down syndrome are more prone to getting such severe heart defects as compared to others.
Major Types of Ventricular Septal Defects
There are mainly four types of ventricular septal defects which are described as follows.
- Membranous VSD – This type of VSD condition occurs due to hole in uppermost region of ventricular wall (septum). They do not close on their own and therefore a good surgical approach is required for VSD closure.
- Muscular VSD – This type of defect occurs due to hole in bottom-most muscular region of ventricular wall. It has been observed that they close on their own and therefore no aggressive treatment is required to treat them.
- Atrioventricular Canal Type VSD – In most instances, atrioventricular canal defect is responsible for the development of this type of VSD. This is why it is named as atrioventricular canal type VSD. Surgery is the only option to treat this heart defect.
- Conal Septal VSD – This is one of the rare types of VSD. It is situated underneath pulmonary valve in ventricular wall.
Diagnosing Ventricular Septal Defects
Choosing well-qualified cardiac surgeons who are adept in performing treatments for VSD is the most crucial step for ensuring best outcomes. Respective cardiac surgeons may ask for medical reports of children and request them to reveal all the trouble-causing symptoms. Furthermore, they may ask them to undergo the given set of diagnostic tests for confirming their exact health status.
- Echocardiogram (Echo) – This test involves uses of powerful sound waves which captures real-time pictures of heart and surrounding tissues. These images help doctors in identifying the location and extent of heart defects.
- Electrocardiogram Test (ECG) – ECG is extremely beneficial in detecting abnormal heart rhythm problems. This test measures electrical activity of patient’s heart with the help of specialized electrodes which are attached to a medical device.
- Chest X-Rays – This is a painless imaging technique which generates good quality images of patient’s internal heart as well as surrounding organs in chest area. These images can significantly help cardiac surgeons in figuring out underlying heart issues.
- Magnetic Resonance Imaging (MRI) – An MRI scan is similar to chest x-ray test. It involves the use of magnetic fields and radio frequencies instead of x-rays for creating three-dimensional images of patient’s heart.
- Pulse Oximetry – It is a simple procedure which involves use of a sophisticated small clip-like instrument which is attached to patient’s finger tips for measuring oxygen levels in their blood.
Respective doctors will outline a suitable treatment plan based on diagnosis reports and overall health condition of patients. Doctors may ask patients to follow a special diet and healthy routine in order to get desired results following VSD treatment.
Treatment Options for Ventricular Septal Defects
The given list depict major treatment options for VSD. Doctors may suggest any of them depending on severity of patient’s health condition.
- Monitoring – Infants with small-sized VSD do not need any treatment. Chances are that the hole will get closed on its own during their developmental years. However, cardiac surgeons may monitor them from time to time in order to check their heart health.
- Medical Management – In mild cases, respective doctors may prescribe essential medicines and powerful drugs for managing the symptoms of VSD and improving heart condition of children.
- Surgical Approach – Ventricular septal defect surgery is required in severe cases. Cardiac surgeons may order one of the following surgeries for closing the abnormal opening in ventricular wall of children.
- Open Heart Surgery – This surgery is performed under general anesthesia with the help of a heart-lung machine. Patient’s heart is stopped temporarily and heart lung machine is used for serving the purpose. During an open heart surgery, respective cardiac surgeons make a long incision around patient’s chest bone for reaching precise heart location. They use a patch for covering the hole and carefully close the incision.
- Cardiac Catheterization Procedure – Cardiac catheterization is a simple medical procedure which involves use of a thin long device called as a ‘catheter’. This device is inserted via groin or arm of patients in order to reach their hearts. Catheter has a camera on one end which enables doctors to access the damaged ventricular wall with a high degree of accuracy. Doctors put a patch or mesh device on exact hole location with the help of catheter for VSD closure.
- Hybrid Surgery – Hybrid approach involves the combination of above-mentioned surgeries. Respective doctors may make a small incision and use a catheter for closing the undesired VSD opening. Patients may be monitored for a certain span of time in order to reduce post-surgical problems.
Risks and Complications Associated with Ventricular Septal Defect Treatments
The given points describe general risks and complications associated with treatments of ventricular septal defect.
- Severe Infection – Patients may get a severe infection at the site of incision. However, this complication can be managed by consuming prescribed dosage of antibiotics.
- Heavy Bleeding – It is a major postoperative problem associated with a surgical approach used for treatment of VSD. Immediate care is necessary in case of heavy bleeding.
- Clotting of Blood – Blood clots may appear following VSD treatment. They may lead to stroke and other life-threatening condition if not treated on time.
- Pulmonary Hypertension – Pulmonary hypertension is a disorder that creates high blood pressure in blood vessels that carry oxygenated blood to lungs. Immediate medical care is must if such condition occurs after completion of VSD surgery.
- Abnormal Heart Rhythm Problem – In some cases, abnormal heart rhythm problem which is clinically referred to as arrhythmias may occur following VSD treatment.
- Heart Failure – There lies a risk of heart failure following VSD treatment.
Patients must discuss potential complications and their feasible solutions with respective cardiac surgeons in advance. It will help in minimizing the occurrence of such health risks.
Recovery Following Treatment of Ventricular Septal Defects
Recovery will depend on health condition of children and the type of treatment which is used. Respective doctors may advise intake of certain medicines until children recover completely. They may also ask them to follow a healthy diet plan and active lifestyle. Above all, attending regular follow-up sessions is must for children. It will not only enhance their health but also maintain long-term outcomes following VSD treatment.
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