Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD)

It can be frightening to learn that your child has a congenital heart defect. The Fetal Heart Program at the SSM Health Cardinal Glennon St. Louis Fetal Care Institute brings together the best cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology, neonatology and maternal-fetal medicine experts in the region to care for mothers and their babies who have a congenital heart defect. Advances in technology and treatment options at SSM Health allow us to provide the highest quality care for your little one.

What Is Ventricular Septal Defect?


Ventricular Septal Defect (VSD) is one of the most common congenital heart defects. In a VSD, there is a hole in the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart (the right and left ventricles). This hole results in increased blood flow to the lungs. Unlike other more severe forms of congenital heart defects, ventricular septal defects cannot always be diagnosed before birth, particularly if the hole is small.

If your doctor suspects a fetal heart anomaly after reviewing your routine ultrasound, he or she may request a fetal echocardiogram (echo), an ultrasound of your baby’s heart. This safe, noninvasive test shows the structure of your baby’s heart and how it is functioning, which can help us determine if there is a VSD and discuss possible options for treatment after delivery. Our team will monitor your baby closely for the remainder of your pregnancy if needed.

How Does VSD Affect Delivery?

Most babies with a VSD can be delivered vaginally at full-term unless otherwise indicated by your obstetrician.

There are generally no symptoms immediately after birth. Over the first 1-2 months of life, a baby with a large VSD may develop symptoms such as trouble feeding, excessive sleepiness, fast breathing and poor weight gain. The larger the hole, the more symptoms the baby may have. A baby with a small VSD may not have any symptoms.

How is VSD Treated?

In early infancy, your baby may require medications and supplemental feedings (high in calories) to help manage the symptoms of fast breathing and improve weight gain.

Most small VSDs will close on their own over months to years. For larger VSDs, open heart surgery is performed when medications are not adequate to control symptoms. This may be in the first six months of life. After surgery, babies with VSD will need regular follow-up visits with a cardiologist, but usually lead healthy, normal lives.

We are here to help – and we’re available 24 hours a day. Call us anytime to schedule an appointment, second opinion, or even if you have a question at (314) 268-4037. You can rest assured your baby’s heart is in good hands at our Cardinal Glennon St. Louis Fetal Care Institute.

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