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What Is an Atrial Septostomy?

By Meshell Powell
Updated Mar 03, 2024
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An atrial septostomy is a type of heart surgery that is designed to correct a birth defect or treat pulmonary hypertension. This procedure is used to relieve pressure on the heart, increase oxygen levels in the blood, and improve blood flow. A small tube known as a balloon catheter is inserted into one of the larger veins and is threaded upward and into the heart to create an opening between the two upper chambers of the heart, known as the atria. Potential complications associated with an atrial septostomy include injury to the heart, cardiac arrest, and failure to completely repair the defect. Any specific questions or concerns about the atrial septostomy procedure should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

In most cases, an atrial septostomy is performed to correct cyanotic birth defects that result from abnormal positioning of the primary arteries of the body. These defects cause oxygenated and deoxygenated blood to travel in the wrong direction, resulting in a lack of oxygen in the blood. A newborn with this type of birth defect often experiences a symptom known as cyanosis, which is a blue tint to the skin caused by insufficient oxygen levels.

Patients with pulmonary hypertension may occasionally be candidates for atrial septostomy surgery. This medical condition is a type of high blood pressure that affects only the lungs and the right side of the heart. Pulmonary hypertension develops when the blood vessels in the lungs become damaged, causing pressure to build in the heart due to inadequate oxygen flow through the lungs.

The atrial septostomy procedure uses a small catheter to create a tiny opening between the left and right atria of the heart to relieve pressure and allow the surgeon to make any necessary repairs. The surgeon inserts the catheter into a vein, typically located in the groin area, and gently guides it into the heart, where a balloon on the end of the catheter is used to enlarge the opening in the septum of the heart. In some cases, a small blade is attached to the end of the balloon so that a hole can be created. The catheter is removed following the procedure, and the patient is monitored for any signs of potential complications.

Newborns and patients with serious medical conditions are at the highest risk of experiencing complications as a result of the atrial septostomy procedure. Damage to the tissues of the heart may lead to cardiac arrest or even death. There is also a chance that the surgery will not provide adequate results and may need to be repeated after the patient recovers and is stable enough to undergo the surgery again.

The Health Board is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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