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What Causes Holes in the Heart?

Mothers of children who are born with atrial septal defects (ASDs), ventricular septal defects (VSDs), or other heart defects may think they did something wrong during their pregnancies. However, most of the time, doctors don't know why congenital heart defects occur.

Heredity may play a role in some heart defects. For example, a parent who has a congenital heart defect is slightly more likely than other people to have a child who has the problem. Very rarely, more than one child in a family is born with a heart defect.

Children who have genetic disorders, such as Down syndrome, often have congenital heart defects. Half of all babies who have Down syndrome have congenital heart defects.

Smoking during pregnancy also has been linked to several congenital heart defects, including septal defects.

Scientists continue to search for the causes of congenital heart defects.

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Holes in the Heart Clinical Trials

Clinical trials are research studies that explore whether a medical strategy, treatment, or device is safe and effective for humans. To find clinical trials that are currently underway for Holes in the Heart, visit www.clinicaltrials.gov.

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July 01, 2011 Last Updated Icon

The NHLBI updates Health Topics articles on a biennial cycle based on a thorough review of research findings and new literature. The articles also are updated as needed if important new research is published. The date on each Health Topics article reflects when the content was originally posted or last revised.