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ESSENTIALS OF DIAGNOSIS

  • A restrictive VSD is small and makes a louder murmur than an unrestricted one, often with an accompanying thrill. The higher the gradient across the septum, the smaller the left-to-right shunt.

  • Small defects may be asymptomatic.

  • Larger defects result in pulmonary hypertension (Eisenmenger physiology) if not repaired or if the pulmonary circuit is not protected by RV outflow tract obstruction.

  • Echocardiography/Doppler is diagnostic.

GENERAL CONSIDERATIONS

Congenital VSDs occur in various parts of the ventricular septum. Four types are often described: in type A, the outflow tract VSD lies underneath the semilunar valves; in type B, the membranous VSD has three variations; in type C, the inlet VSD is present below the tricuspid valve and often part of the AV septal defect; and type D is the muscular VSD (eFigure 10–25). Membranous and muscular septal defects may spontaneously close in childhood as the septum grows and hypertrophies. A left-to-right shunt is present, with the degree depending on associated RV pressure. The smaller the defect, the greater is the gradient from the LV to the RV and the louder the murmur. The presentation in adults depends on the size of the shunt and whether there is associated pulmonic or subpulmonic stenosis that has protected the lung from the systemic pressure and volume. Unprotected lungs with large shunts invariably lead to pulmonary vascular disease and severe pulmonary hypertension (Eisenmenger physiology). VSD sizes are defined by comparison to the aortic root size; a small or restrictive VSD diameter is less than 25% of the aortic root diameter, a moderately restrictive VSD diameter is 25–75% of the aorta, and an unrestricted VSD size is greater than 75% of the aortic diameter. The size can also be quantitated based on the Qp/Qs (left-to-right shunt), with a restrictive lesion being less than 1.5:1, moderately restrictive VSD being 1.5–2.2:1, and an unrestricted lesion being greater than 2.2:1.

CLINICAL FINDINGS

A. Symptoms and Signs

The clinical features depend on the size of the defect and the presence or absence of RV outflow obstruction or increased PVR. Small shunts are associated with loud, harsh holosystolic murmurs in the left third and fourth interspaces along the sternum. A systolic thrill is common. Larger shunts may create both LV and RV volume and pressure overload. If pulmonary hypertension occurs, high-pressure pulmonary valve regurgitation may result. Right heart failure may gradually become evident late in the course, and the shunt will begin to balance or reverse as RV and LV systolic pressures equalize with the advent of pulmonary hypertension. Cyanosis from a developing right-to-left shunt may then occur. Cyanosis with pulmonary hypertension and an intracardiac shunt define the Eisenmenger syndrome.

B. ECG and Chest Radiography

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