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An atrial septal defect (ASD) is a congenital birth defect that can be caused by numerous reasons, and although studies are still ongoing, preliminary research suggests that there may be a heightened risk of infants developing it after their mothers take Zofran while pregnant.

What is Atrial Septal Defect?

ASD, commonly referred to as a “hole in the heart,” is a medical condition marked by a hole in between the heart’s chambers. The size of the hole can range from small to large, and can sometimes go undetected for numerous years. This is generally because babies do not always have associated symptoms with the birth defect. Yet as adults, the symptoms become more noticeable.
doctor checking baby’s heart
The most common symptoms of ASD include:

  • Breath shortness
  • Fatigue
  • Heart palpitations
  • Lung infection
  • Heart murmurs
  • Swelling in the legs/abdomen

Atrial Septal Defect Causes

For infant ASD, the heart doesn’t form correctly while the baby is still in utero, but in some cases, there is no clear reason as to why this happens. In other instances, heart malformations while the infant is still in the womb may occur due to taking medications while pregnant, including Zofran.

Zofran is a popular anti-nausea medication, yet it was never intended for use by pregnant women. In fact, the U.S. FDA has only approved the medication for cancer patients and those undergoing surgery. Popular cancer treatments tend to come with side effects of nausea and vomiting, and Zofran is prescribed as a way to control it.

However, GlaxoSmithKline, the makers of Zofran, began marketing the drug to pregnant women as a way to treat morning sickness. In turn, infants are being born with numerous types of birth defects, many of which are heart malformations.

Other causes of ASD may include:

  • Maternal diabetes
  • Rubella infection during the first trimester
  • Maternal lupus
  • Preeclampsia
  • Using drugs, tobacco, and/or alcohol while pregnant
  • Maternal obesity

Complications Associated with Atrial Septal Defect

If there is only a small atrial opening, the infant may never have any problems as the smaller holes tend to close during infancy. However, large openings can result in anything from mild medical issues to severe, life-threatening problems, including:

  • Heart failure
  • Heart arrhythmias
  • Risk of stroke
  • Pulmonary hypertension
  • Permanent lung damage

Atrial Septal Defect Treatment Options

As mentioned earlier, in some cases, ASD will clear up on its own without the need for medical intervention. For babies with larger holes, treatment can range from medications that aim to reduce symptoms to surgery.

There are a few different types of surgery options for ASD treatment, with the most common consisting of:

Open-heart Surgery

With open-heart surgery, physicians will make an incision while the patient is under general anesthesia. The hole in the heart is then patched up. Once the heart defect has been repaired, physicians usually use  imaging techniques to ensure that the surgery worked.

Cardiac Catheterization

Cardiac catheterization consists of inserting a catheter into a blood vessel in the groin area in order to guide it to the heart. The catheter is guided via imaging techniques. Either a a mesh patch or a plug is then set into place to cover up the hole in the heart. Heart tissue will begin to grow around the mesh or plug, resulting in the hole closing up.

Atrial Septal Defect Prevention

Sometimes ASD will occur, as aforementioned, for no apparent reason. Yet, there are steps you can take to reduce the chances of your baby developing the defect. Aside from getting testing for rubella and going over your medical history with your doctor, you can take steps to reduce the risks by not taking medication that’s associated with birth defects. Zofran, unfortunately, is still being prescribed to pregnant women as off-label use for morning sickness, even though studies show that there is a heightened risk of birth defects.

If you’ve already taken Zofran while pregnant, and your baby was born with ASD or any other birth defect, you may be eligible for compensation for medical expenses, pain, suffering, and more. You have the legal right to file a Zofran lawsuit against the makers of the medication, GlazoSmithKline, a company that’s already facing lawsuits for marketing the medication to pregnant women.