Learning About Atrioventricular Septal Defect in Newborns

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Image of fetal heart circulation

What is atrioventricular septal defect?

Atrioventricular septal defect is a hole in the center of the heart. The hole is where the four chambers of the heart normally would meet. The opening is caused because the heart tissue did not join together during the growth of the fetus. While this hole is there, blood doesn't flow as well as it should. This can make your baby's heart pump harder.

This is a congenital heart disease. This means your baby was born with it.

Your baby may need special care, such as being in the neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). This may be scary for you. But the hospital staff understands this. They will explain what happens and will answer your questions.

How is it treated?

Your baby may get medicine. It may include medicines given through a blood vessel. This is often done through the belly button.

Your baby will need surgery. The doctor will close the hole with patches that become part of the heart. The heart valves are separated to make them as normal as possible. Your baby will be asleep during the surgery.

The surgery may be done when a baby is a few months old. Your baby will probably be in the hospital during this time. When you can go home with your baby, you'll get instructions on how to care for your baby.

What can you expect?

  • You may see tubes and wires attached to your baby. This can be scary to see. But these things help the doctor treat your baby. The tubes supply air, fluid, and medicines to your baby. The wires are attached to machines that help the doctor keep track of your baby's vital signs. These include temperature, blood pressure, breathing rate, and pulse rate.
  • It may seem that your baby is getting lots of tests. All of these tests help your doctor keep track of your baby's condition and give the best treatment possible.
  • If your baby has trouble breathing, the doctor may use a ventilator. This machine helps your baby breathe. To do this, the doctor puts a soft tube through your baby's mouth into the windpipe.
  • The hospital staff will give your baby the nutrition that your baby needs. The doctor may feed your baby through a soft tube that goes through the nose and into the stomach. Or the doctor may use an I.V. that goes through the belly button to do this.
  • Your baby may need extra oxygen. It is given to the baby through tubes in the nose.
  • After surgery, your baby will need routine checkups to check on the heart. Your baby may need more surgeries or procedures in the future.
  • It's hard to be apart from your baby, especially when you worry about your baby's condition. Know that the hospital staff is well prepared to care for babies with this condition. They will do everything they can to help. If you need it, get support from friends and family. Ask the hospital staff about counseling and support.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

Where can you learn more?

Go to http://www.healthwise.net/patientEd

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.