A ventricular septal defect (VSD), also called a hole in the heart, is a common heart defect that's present at birth (congenital). The defect involves an opening (hole) in the heart forming between the heart's lower chambers, allowing oxygen-rich and oxygen-poor blood to mix.

A baby with a small ventricular septal defect may have no problems. A baby with a larger ventricular septal defect or associated heart defects may have a telltale bluish tint to the skin (cyanosis) — due to oxygen-poor blood — often most visible in the lips and fingernails. Ventricular septal defects are sometimes not diagnosed until adulthood.

Fortunately, ventricular septal defect is treatable. Many small ventricular septal defects often close on their own or don't cause problems. Larger ventricular septal defects need surgical repair early in life to prevent complications. Some smaller ventricular septal defects are closed to prevent complications related to their location, such as damage to heart valves. Many people with small ventricular septal defects have normal, productive lives with few related problems.

Oct. 26, 2011