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Sinus Venosus Atrial Septal Defects Clinical Presentation

  • Author: Gary M Satou, MD, FASE; Chief Editor: Howard S Weber, MD, FSCAI  more...
Updated: Sep 10, 2015


Sinus venosus atrial septal defects (ASDs), like most ASDs, are diagnosed upon detection of a murmur, a fixed split second heart sound, and/or right heart enlargement on chest x-ray or electrocardiogram (ECG) in the usually asymptomatic patient. Note the following:

  • Symptoms of ASDs are typically a function of the size of the associated shunt.
  • As many as 60% of apparently asymptomatic patients may have easy fatigability and dyspnea. Such symptoms usually indicate a relatively large shunt.
  • Adults may not come to medical attention until symptoms occur. Arrhythmias, dyspnea, and a decrease in exercise tolerance are common symptoms.


A cardiac murmur secondary to increased pulmonary artery blood flow is heard over the upper left sternal border. The murmur is usually a soft grade 2/6 systolic ejection murmur. A prominent right ventricular impulse may also be noted along the left sternal border. A diastolic flow murmur may be present at the left lower sternal border and the tricuspid area and is indicative of a large left-to-right shunt.

The second heart sound is widely split and may be fixed or may vary little with respiration. The pulmonic component of the second heart sound is usually normal in intensity but may increase in intensity if pulmonary hypertension is present.

Patients with atrial septal defects may present with the "gracile habitus." These patients are thin for their height.

Contributor Information and Disclosures

Gary M Satou, MD, FASE Director, Pediatric Echocardiography, Co-Director, Fetal Cardiology Program, Mattel Children's Hospital; Associate Clinical Professor, Department of Pediatrics, University of California, Los Angeles, David Geffen School of Medicine

Gary M Satou, MD, FASE is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, Society of Pediatric Echocardiography, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, American Society of Echocardiography

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.


Brian L Reemtsen, MD Assistant Professor of Cardiothoracic Surgery, Keck School of Medicine, University of Southern California

Brian L Reemtsen, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Medical Association, Society of Thoracic Surgeons, Western Thoracic Surgical Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Specialty Editor Board

Mary L Windle, PharmD Adjunct Associate Professor, University of Nebraska Medical Center College of Pharmacy; Editor-in-Chief, Medscape Drug Reference

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Alvin J Chin, MD Emeritus Professor of Pediatrics, University of Pennsylvania School of Medicine

Alvin J Chin, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Association for the Advancement of Science, Society for Developmental Biology, American Heart Association

Disclosure: Nothing to disclose.

Chief Editor

Howard S Weber, MD, FSCAI Professor of Pediatrics, Section of Pediatric Cardiology, Pennsylvania State University College of Medicine; Director of Interventional Pediatric Cardiology, Penn State Hershey Children's Hospital

Howard S Weber, MD, FSCAI is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, American College of Cardiology, Society for Cardiovascular Angiography and Interventions

Disclosure: Received income in an amount equal to or greater than $250 from: St. Jude Medical.

Additional Contributors

Charles I Berul, MD Professor of Pediatrics and Integrative Systems Biology, George Washington University School of Medicine; Chief, Division of Cardiology, Children's National Medical Center

Charles I Berul, MD is a member of the following medical societies: American Academy of Pediatrics, Heart Rhythm Society, Cardiac Electrophysiology Society, Pediatric and Congenital Electrophysiology Society, American College of Cardiology, American Heart Association, Society for Pediatric Research

Disclosure: Received grant/research funds from Medtronic for consulting.


The authors and editors of eMedicine gratefully acknowledge the contributions of previous authors Jeff L Myers, MD, PhD, and James Jaggers, MD, to the writing and development of this article.

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Panel A. Transesophageal echocardiogram (transverse view) of a patient with a sinus venosus defect of the superior vena cava (SVC) type. The original defect (white star burst) has been repaired by placing a baffle (arrows), which directs blood from the anomalously connected right upper pulmonary vein into the left atrium (LA). In this patient, the baffle was redundant so at a more rostral level (Panel B), it could be seen (black open arrows) to bulge into the superior vena cava (SVC)–right atrial (RA) junction (trio of white arrows). The remainder of the atrial septum is denoted by the duo of white open arrows. Panel C is a transesophageal echocardiogram, sagittal view. Doppler color flow mapping verifies that the protruding baffle (white closed arrows) results in a narrowing of the pathway from the SVC to the RA. The quartet of white open arrows points to the remainder of the atrial septum.
Panel A is a transesophageal echocardiogram, transverse view. The white star burst shows the sinus venosus defect of the inferior vena cava (IVC) type, lying adjacent to the IVC junction with the right atrium (RA). The remainder of the atrial septum is just out of the view of this sector but is represented by the white open arrowheads. The leaflets of the closed tricuspid valve (TV) are visible. RV = right ventricle. Panel B is a transesophageal echocardiogram, sagittal view. This is the same patient as in Panel A. This view proves that the rostral portion of the atrial septum (which would be missing in a patient with a sinus venosus defect of the SVC type) is intact. ct = crista terminalis; svc = superior vena cava.
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