Holes in the Heart


Most “holes” in the heart refer to communications (due to incomplete closure) between walls separating the chambers inside the heart. There is also a communication between the two major blood vessels arising from the heart called the patent ductus arteriosus (PDA) due to the incomplete closure of this vessel after birth. These “holes” result in abnormal flow between the heart chambers or blood vessels. When the holes are small, they may sometimes close on their own, over time, in babies. However, if a hole is large and doesn’t close, the baby may need treatment to close it. In the past, treatment almost always involved surgery. Still, now there are minimally invasive procedures performed in the cardiac catheterization lab that will work for many infants and children with a hole in the heart. Minimally invasive procedures (called cardiac interventions) are performed by interventional cardiologists specially trained in the use of very small, flexible tubes (catheters) that can be threaded through the chambers of the heart and blood vessels to deliver closure devices such as coils, plugs, or patches to close holes in the heart and blood vessel communications.

For more complex cardiac anatomy, a combination of surgery and minimally invasive procedures (called hybrid techniques) may be considered to take advantage of the benefits of both procedures at the same time. A specially trained congenital heart surgeon and an interventional cardiologist will plan and perform the hybrid treatment in these cases.

Baby and stethoscope

Children's Heart Health

Information for parents of children with pediatric heart conditions. Read more about conditions, tests, and treatments for congenital heart disease.