by EBSCO Medical Review Board


An atrial septal defect repair uses a device to plug a hole in the wall between the two upper chambers (right and left atriums) of the heart. A transcatheter procedure is a minimally-invasive way to repair the hole.

The device will trigger the heart tissue to slowly grow over the hole as the child recovers.

Reasons for Procedure

An atrial septal defect can cause blood to flow backward into the right side of the heart and into the lungs. This triggers the heart to work harder. Over time, this can lead to damage to blood vessels in the lungs and congestive heart failure. This surgery is done to fix the hole.

Blood Flow Through the Heart
Blood Flow Through the Heart
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Possible Complications

Problems are rare, but all procedures have some risk. The doctor will go over some problems that could happen, such as:

  • Excess bleeding
  • Problems from anesthesia, such as wheezing or sore throat
  • Allergic reaction to x-ray contrast material
  • Infection, including endocarditis, an infection of the inner lining of the heart muscle
  • Blood clots
  • Damage to arteries
  • Heart rhythm problems

Things that may raise the risk of problems are:

  • Recent infection
  • Low birth weight
  • Chronic diseases, such as diabetes or obesity

What to Expect

Prior to Procedure

The surgical team may meet with you to talk about:

  • Anesthesia options
  • Any allergies your child may have
  • Current medicines, herbs, and supplements that your child takes and whether your child needs to stop taking them before surgery
  • Fasting before surgery, such as avoiding food or drink after midnight the night before
  • Tests that will need to be done before surgery, such as images of the heart


General anesthesia will be used. Your child will be asleep.

Description of the Procedure

A tube will be inserted either in the arm or groin. Electrodes will be placed on the chest. They will send information to the ECG machine, allowing the heart to be monitored.

A catheter will be placed in the blood vessel and advanced so the end is in the heart. Contrast material will be injected to allow the doctor to view x-ray images of the heart. An echocardiogram may also be used. The doctor will need to find out the size of the hole that needs to be covered. A tube with a balloon attached to it will be sent to the upper chambers of the heart. The balloon will inflate and measure the hole.

Another tube will be sent to the heart when the size of the hole is known. This tube will have a device attached. There are many types of devices. Some are able to open so that the hole is covered on both sides. Others open like an umbrella to cover the defect. After the device is placed, the tube will be removed. A bandage will be placed over the area.

Immediately After Procedure

After the operation, your child will be taken to the intensive care unit (ICU) for observation.

How Long Will It Take?

1 to 2 hours

Will It Hurt?

Pain and swelling are common in the first 1 to 2 weeks. Medicine and home care can manage pain.

Average Hospital Stay

The usual length of stay is 2 to 4 days. Some children may be able to go home as soon as the next day. If your child has any problems, he or she may need to stay longer.

Post-procedure Care

At the Hospital

Right after the procedure, the staff may:

  • Give your child pain medicines
  • Have your child lie still and flat for several hours to prevent bleeding
  • Have your child drink fluids to flush the contrast material from the body

During your child's stay, the staff will take steps to lower the chance of infection such as:

  • Washing their hands
  • Wearing gloves or masks
  • Keeping your child's incisions covered

There are also steps you can take to lower your child's chances of infection such as:

  • Washing your hands and your child's hands often and reminding visitors and staff to do the same
  • Reminding staff to wear gloves or masks
  • Not letting others touch your child's incisions
At Home

It will take about 6 weeks to fully heal. Physical activity will need to be limited during recovery. Your child may need to delay return to school.

Call Your Child’s Doctor If Any of the Following Occur

Call the doctor if your child is not getting better or has:

  • Signs of infection, such as fever and chills
  • Increased sweating
  • Redness, swelling, increasing pain, excessive bleeding, or any leaking from the incision
  • Nausea and vomiting
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pain that cannot be controlled with medicine
  • Lack of energy
  • Rash
  • Lack of hunger or poor feeding
  • Not drinking enough fluids
  • Not urinating

Call for Medical Help Right Away If Any of the Following Occur

Call for medical help or go to the emergency room right away if your child has:

  • Fast breathing or problems breathing
  • Blue or gray skin color
  • Problems waking up and interacting
  • Chest pain
  • Fast heartbeat
  • Lack of strength or fainting
  • Signs of a stroke, such as drooping facial muscles, changes in vision or speech, and problems walking

If you think your child is having an emergency, call for medical help right away.


American Heart Association 

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute 


Health Canada 

Heart and Stroke Foundation 


Atrial septal defect. Cove Point Foundation website. Available at: Accessed November 3, 2020.

Atrial septal defect. Kids Health—Nemours Foundation website. Available at: Accessed November 3, 2020.

Atrial septal defects. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: Accessed November 3, 2020.

Geva T, Martins JD, et al. Atrial septal defects. Lancet. 2014 May 31;383(9932):1921-1932.

Open-heart surgery. Cincinnati Children’s Hospital website. Available at: Accessed November 3, 2020.

Revision Information

  • Reviewer: EBSCO Medical Review Board Kari Kassir, MD
  • Review Date: 09/2020
  • Update Date: 05/07/2021