Atrial Septal Defect Repair

An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital birth defect of the heart, which occurs when a hole develops between the left and right atrium(the two upper chambers of the heart). Sizable ASDs, when left untreated, can lead to heart failure and death. This is why closure of an ASD is always necessary.

This “hole” between the upper chambers of the heart is present at birth and commonly called a patent foramen ovale (PFO). This defect may not cause symptoms until later in life. The hole allows blood to shunt (move from left to right or right to left) across the heart. This is not normal circulation. Although sometimes detected or repaired at birth, large ASD’s need to be closed, once detected later in life.

Signs and Symptoms

People with a significant atrial septal defect are usually diagnosed in utero or in early childhood. These are found by an ultrasound or by listening to the heart during a physical examination.

Less commonly, some people with an ASD undergo surgical correction of the defect later in childhood. Signs and symptoms can depend on the size of the hole in the heart and can include:

  • Shortness of breath with light exercise
  • Congestive heart failure
  • Stroke
  • Abnormal chest x-ray
  • Abnormal ECG
  • Atrial fibrillation


Occasionally, ASDs can be closed through an incision in the groin, similar to a catherization. Larger ASDs may be repaired with the da Vinci Surgical System, through small incisions on the right side of the chest, similar to the approach used for procedures involving the mitral valve.

Procedures performed robotically help patients return to their normal activities much faster than a traditional sternotomy. Recovery time is about two weeks instead of two months, involve fewer transfusions, reduced risk of infection, reduced pain, and better cosmetic results. Most women find it possible to cover their incision scars with a bra or bathing suit.

If you are in need of surgical repair of an atrial septal defect or to find out if you are a candidate for minimally invasive robotic surgery, please contact us.