Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
Monroe Carell Jr. Children's Hospital at Vanderbilt
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Home / A–Z Services / Pediatric Heart Institute / Heart Conditions / Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD)
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Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD)


What is Atrioventricular Septal Defect (AVSD)?
AVSD is also known as Endocardial cushion defect or Complete or Common Atrioventricular Canalendocardial. AVSD is a malformation of the valves separating the upper and lower chambers of the heart and can also include a defect in the wall between the upper and lower chambers. In this defect, there are three different components that contribute to the diagnosis:

  • A hole in the wall (septum) between the upper chambers (atrium).
  • A hole between the wall (septum) in the lower chambers (ventricles).
  • The atrioventricular valves (valves that separate the atria from the ventricle) prevent blood from leaking back in to the atria from the ventricles when pumping. With this diagnosis, the tricuspid and mitral valves are not separated and will try to work together as one common valve.

Often infants with AVSD will show signs of congestive heart failure in the first six weeks of life. This does not mean the heart is failing.  It is working hard to meet the demands of the body for feeding and growing.

How do we diagnose AVSD?
Echocardiogram (ultrasound) can help refine the details of the diagnosis. The echocardiogram will help to show the holes as well as the valves. 

How do we treat AVSD?
We use medications and diet to help until surgery is possible. Medications can include, Digoxin to help the heart work more efficiently, lasix to help reduce excess water, and enalapril to decrease the work of the heart. The diet will include increased calories to help the baby gain weight. Surgical repair is often done between three and six months. Thickening of the valve leaflets to hold stitches occurs over the three to six month time period. The surgery will require closing the two holes and separating the malformed valve into two valves.

Last Edited: December 18, 2012
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