The term "heart defect" often refers to an abnormal opening in the wall (septum) that divides the two upper or two lower chambers of the heart. Such defects don't always require treatment. When they do, sometimes medication will effectively treat the symptoms. In other cases, a procedure may be used to repair the hole in the heart wall.

Most heart defects can be repaired in relatively simple cardiac cath lab procedures. How it's done:

  1. A catheter guides a flexible closure device through a blood vessel into the heart.
  2. Once the device is correctly positioned, it can expand to plug the hole. (Generally speaking, the device works a bit like an umbrella. When collapsed, it is small enough to travel inside your blood vessel. When opened, it covers a larger area.)
  3. When the catheter is withdrawn, this plugging device remains behind to close the hole in the heart. Eventually the device becomes covered with the body's own tissues.
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