How are heart defects repaired?

The term "heart defect" often refers to an abnormal opening in the wall (septum) that divides the two upper chambers or the two lower chambers of the heart. Examples include atrial septal defects (ASDs), patent foramen ovales (PFOs), and ventricular septal defects (VSDs). Such defects don't always require treatment. When they do, sometimes medication treats the symptoms. In other cases, your healthcare provider may recommend a procedure to repair the hole in the heart wall. Most heart defects can be repaired in a cath lab procedure. Here's how:
  1. A catheter guides a flexible closure device through a blood vessel into your heart.
  2. Once the device is in the correct place, it can expand (open) to plug the hole. There are different types of devices, but they all generally work a bit like an umbrella. When the device is collapsed, it's small enough to travel inside your blood vessel. When it's opened, it covers a larger area.
  3. When the catheter is removed, this plugging device remains behind to close the hole in your heart. Eventually the device becomes covered with the body's own tissues.
Your healthcare provider may opt to repair a heart defect with open heart surgery. The decision depends on several factors, including the extent of the defect and your overall health.

During surgery, the surgeon repairs the defect with stitches (sutures) or patches it with a large "swatch" made of a surgical material or your own tissue.

Heart defect repairs have a high rate of success. Most of the time, these procedures completely cure the defect and help you avoid further problems.

The pulmonary valve opens and closes to let blood flow from the right lower chamber of the heart (right ventricle) to the lungs and prevents blood from flowing back from the artery into the heart. These valves may not function properly in patients with congenital heart defects and need to be replaced with a conduit to prop open a section of the right ventricle and an artificial valve -- fitted inside the conduit -- to regulate the blood flow.

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.