5-Minute Clinical Consult

Ventricular Septal Defect

Ventricular Septal Defect is a topic covered in the 5-Minute Clinical Consult.

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  • Congenital or acquired defect of the interventricular septum that allows communication of blood between the left and the right ventricles
  • Other than bicuspid aortic valve, it is the most common congenital heart malformation reported in infants and children. It also occurs as a complication of acute myocardial infarction (MI).
  • Severity of the defect is correlated with its size, with large defects being the most severe.
  • Blood flow across the defect typically is left to right, depending on defect size and pulmonary vascular resistance (PVR).
  • Prolonged left to right shunting of blood can lead to pulmonary hypertension (HTN). This may eventually lead to a reversal of flow across the defect and cyanosis (Eisenmenger complex).

Geriatric Considerations
Almost entirely associated with MI

Pediatric Considerations
Congenital defect

  • Pregnancy may exacerbate symptoms and signs of a ventricular septal defect (VSD).
  • Can be tolerated during pregnancy if VSD is small
  • May be associated with an increased risk of preeclampsia in women with an unrepaired VSD


  • Congenital defect: no gender predilection, occurs in ~2/1,000 live births and accounts for 30% of all congenital cardiac malformations
  • Post-MI: Males are affected more than females.


In the United States:

  • Congenital defect: lowered prevalence in adults due to spontaneous closure
  • Post-MI: estimated to complicate 1–3%

Etiology and Pathophysiology

  • Congenital
  • In adults, complication of MI

Multifactorial etiology; autosomal dominant and recessive transmissions have been reported.

Risk Factors

  • Congenital:
    • Risk of sibling being affected: 4.2%
    • Risk of offspring being affected: 4%
    • Prematurity
  • Complication of MI:
    • First MI
    • HTN
    • Most frequently within first week after MI
    • Occurs in 1–3% of MIs, most commonly after anterior MI

General Prevention

Avoid prenatal exposure to known risk factors (ibuprofen, marijuana, organic solvents, febrile illness). For adults, avoid risk factors for MI and obtain evaluation before pregnancy.

Commonly Associated Conditions

  • Congenital:
    • Tetralogy of Fallot
    • Aortic valvular deformities, especially aortic insufficiency and bicuspid aortic valve
    • Down syndrome (trisomy 21), endocardial cushion defect
    • Transposition of great arteries
    • Coarctation of aorta
    • Tricuspid atresia
    • Truncus arteriosus
    • Patent ductus arteriosus
    • Atrial septal defect
    • Pulmonic stenosis
    • Subaortic stenosis
  • Adult: coronary artery disease

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