Although the term “heart defect” can refer to many different heart problems, it’s often used to talk about defects affecting the wall (septum) that divide the two upper or two lower chambers of the heart, or problems with heart valves. Some of the more common defects are:
- Atrial septal defect (ASD). This birth defect is fairly common. With ASD, the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart has a hole in it. As a result, the heart has to work harder and the lungs can be damaged.
- Patent foramen ovale (PFO). Fetuses have an opening (called a foramen ovale) between the upper chambers of the heart that closes naturally soon after birth. If this fails to happen, the result is an open (patent) foramen ovale, or PFO. Most of the time, this defect doesn’t require treatment.
- Ventricular septal defect (VSD). This defect is a hole in the wall between the two lower chambers of the heart (the ventricles). A VSD makes the heart less efficient and forces it to work harder.
- Aortic valve stenosis or insufficiency. The aortic valve lets oxygen-rich blood flow from the heart into the aorta (the main artery that distributes blood throughout your body). If this valve is missing one of its “leaflets,” over time the valve can become narrowed (stenosis) or leaky (insufficiency).
- Pulmonary valve stenosis. This involves a narrowed pulmonary valve (the valve that oxygen-depleted blood passes through on its way to the lungs).