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Feb 06, 2014

Promising Treatment Option for Patients with VSD

A new procedure may be a less invasive alternative to surgery for patients born with a ventricular septal defect.

Surgery may no longer be the only treatment option for children born with a common heart defect, according to a recent study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.

Ventricular septal defect (VSD), one of the most common heart defects in the U.S, occurs when there’s a hole in the wall separating the lower chambers of the heart. For a specific type of VSD (perimembraneous ventricular septal defect, or pmVSD) where this hole occurs in the upper section of the heart’s chambers, surgery is typically the only available treatment option. Unlike other heart defects, there’s little chance that the hole will close on its own and without treatment, this condition can cause life-threatening complications. And while surgery is quite safe and effective, it’s invasive and requires open-heart surgery.

That’s why other countries like China and India have been testing out a less invasive procedure that uses a small, thin tube to treat this common birth defect. During this procedure, doctors insert a flexible tube into a blood vessel and guide it into the heart, closing the hole and restoring normal blood flow. According to a recent Chinese study, this procedure may be a safe and effective alternative to traditional surgical treatment.

Between 2009 and 2010, researchers enrolled 229 patients from three major medical centers in Northwest China into this study. Children were between 3 and 12 years old and required treatment for pmVSD. Upon enrollment, patients were randomly chosen to receive either surgery or the minimally-invasive procedure, and were then followed for two years to see how they responded to treatment.

Fortunately, no patients in either treatment group had serious complications or died during the follow-up period. Researchers found, however, that the minimally-invasive procedure had many benefits compared to traditional surgery. Patients receiving the minimally-invasive procedure had fewer complications and required fewer blood transfusions during or after the procedure. They also had a faster recovery, shorter hospital stay and lower medical expenses compared to those undergoing surgery.

As a result, authors suggest that this minimally-invasive procedure may be an ideal treatment option for children born with pmVSD. If it is, in fact, more safe and effective than surgery, it’s possible that this procedure may become the standard treatment for pmVSD in the future. However, further long-term research is needed before such procedures will be approved in the United States for the treatment of this common birth defect.
Read the full study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology

Questions for You to Consider

  • What is a ventricular septal defect?
  • A ventricular septal defect (VSD) is an opening in the wall that divides the lower chambers of the heart. VSD is usually diagnosed at birth and if left untreated, can cause lung disease as children get older.
  • How common are ventricular septal defects?
  • Ventricular septal defects (VSDs) are among the most common congenital heart defects, occurring in 2-4 of every 1,000 births each year. VSDs make up about 20-30% of all congenital heart defects in the U.S. and are even more common in babies born prematurely.

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