Atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD) repair

An atrioventricular septal defect (AVSD) repair is a procedure to close holes in the heart that cause too much blood flow and pressure. The surgery fixes the heart valves as well, to prevent the added pressure from causing lung damage.


A pediatric cardiologist will recommend surgery based on results from an echocardiogram and/or cardiac catheterization.


AVSD surgery is a complex operation that requires experience, skill and training.

Methods for this surgery have improved in the past decade. Doctors often recommend AVSD surgery during a child’s first year. Most children will have the surgery by 6 months old. Children who have Down syndrome may need surgery earlier, because they are at risk for developing lung problems sooner.


Your child’s AVSD treatment may vary, depending on his or her condition. Your child may need medicines to help the heart and lungs until your child is ready for surgery.


Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, is the leading provider of pediatric heart care in Louisville and Southern Indiana.


The Society of Thoracic Surgeons has ranked Norton Children’s Heart Institute’s pediatric heart care among the best in the region. With our network of remote diagnostic and treatment services in Kentucky and Southern Indiana, your child can stay close to home for quality care.


The surgery has a high likelihood of success and many children go on to live healthy lives. Some children may need surgery again in the future, while others may need to take medications.

What happens during an AVSD repair?


Your child will be sedated (asleep). A pediatric anesthesiologist will give the sedation medication and closely watch your child during the procedure.


Depending on what type of AVSD your child has, the surgery team will:


  • Close the ventricular septal defect (VSD) with a patch made from a polyesterlike material
  • Close the atrial septal defect with a patch made from the pericardium — the membrane that covers the outside surface of the heart
  • Close the cleft (the cut in the valve leaflets) to create a two-leaflet (two-cusp) mitral valve
  • Replace the mitral valve if necessary


AVSD surgery complications and after-care

Children who have an AVSD repair will need lifelong follow-up care with a cardiologist. They may have complications later in life, such as leaky heart valves.


These children also will need to take antibiotics before dental procedures and other surgical procedures to prevent bacterial infection of the heart.

Why choose Norton Children’s Heart Institute

No other congenital heart surgery program in Kentucky, Ohio or Southern Indiana is ranked higher by the Society of Thoracic Surgeons than the Norton Children’s Pediatric Cardiothoracic Surgery Program.

  • Norton Children’s Hospital has been a pioneer in pediatric cardiothoracic surgery, performing Kentucky’s first pediatric heart transplant in 1986 and becoming the second site in the United States to perform an infant heart transplant.
  • Our board-certified and fellowship-trained pediatric cardiovascular surgeons are leaders in the field as clinicians and researchers.
  • More than 5,000 children a year visit Norton Children’s Heart Institute, affiliated with the University of Louisville, for advanced heart care.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute successfully performs more than 17,500 procedures a year.
  • The Society of Thoracic Surgeons ranked Norton Children’s Heart Institute among the best in the region after studying years of our patients’ outcomes and our ability to handle a range of pediatric heart conditions, including the most severe.
  • Norton Children’s Heart Institute has satellite outpatient centers in Bowling Green, Frankfort, Owensboro and Paducah; 28 tele-echocardiography locations in Kentucky and Southern Indiana; and six fetal echocardiography locations across Kentucky.
  • The American Board of Thoracic Surgery has certified the cardiothoracic surgeons at Norton Children’s Hospital with subspecialty certification in congenital heart surgery.
  • The Jennifer Lawrence Cardiac Intensive Care Unit is under construction to give our patients the most advanced cardiac intensive care unit available.
  • Our multidisciplinary approach to pediatric heart surgery brings together our specialists in cardiothoracic surgery, cardiology, anesthesiology, cardiac critical care and other areas to create a complete care plan tailored for your child.
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Norton Children’s Heart Institute

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