Heart and Vascular

Heart Defect Program

When your heart needs repair, trust the team with the experience and expertise to do it right. And the team who will get you back to your regular life as soon as possible.

While many congenital heart defects, meaning problems present at birth, are diagnosed and treated in infancy and childhood, there are other problems that are not discovered until adulthood. These are often found in adults after another medical events such as a stroke or congestive heart failure. Additionally, sometimes conditions that were treated as a child may worsen later in life, such as after pregnancy.

Many heart defects can be corrected using transcatheter or minimally invasive robotic surgical approaches.

Transcatheter Procedures

Performed in the cardiac catheterization lab, these procedures allow the cardiologists repair the heart through a catheter inserted into the blood vessels near the groin.

Atrial Septal Defects (ASD) and Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO), often referred to as a hole in the heart, are abnormal openings in the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart, known as the atria. These cause blood to leak between the two chambers. To compensate for this problem the heart often works harder to get the blood to the lungs. This can cause the heart to become enlarged and the extra blood can damage the blood vessels in the lungs. These can also increase someone’s risk for stroke.

While similar, ASDs and PFOs are created by different mechanisms. ASDs occur when the heart is not formed correctly, and there isn’t a complete closure of the wall between the two upper chambers of the heart. ASDs can vary in size. When a fetus is in the womb, there is naturally a hole between the two chambers called a foramen ovale, but it closes shortly after birth. Sometimes it doesn’t close correctly, leaving a hole in the heart between the two chambers which is called a patent (meaning open) foramen ovale. PFOs are very small openings, but they can still cause the heart to have to work harder to compensate for the leak. In approximately 25% of the population, these PFOs remain open into adulthood. They are usually not discovered until the person experiences a medical problem like a stroke.

Atrial Septal Defect Closures and Patent Foramen Repair

By accessing the heart through the blood vessels, the structural cardiologist is able to enter the chambers of the heart without cutting the muscle. Once inside the heart, a device is inserted to plug up the opening between the two atria. Then the catheter is removed through the vessels.

Physicians are also able to repair and replace heart valves in the cardiac catheterization lab, with minimally invasive robotic-assisted heart surgery and with open-heart surgery. More details about this can be found here.  


Implanted Medical Devices

Some individuals benefit from the support of implanted medical devices. These can include pacemakers to keep a heart beating at a normal rhythm. It could also include an implantable cardioverter defibrillators (ICDs) to bring a heart back to normal quickly if it has a dangerously irregular rhythm. Some devices are able to work as both pacemakers and ICDs.
Learn more about Riverside’s cardiac electrophysiology program here.

Cardiac Surgery

Depending on the specific type of congenital heart defect, your physician may recommend cardiac surgery as the best form of treatment.

Learn more about Riverside’s minimally invasive cardiac robotic surgery and open-heart surgery offerings here.


Riverside Cardiology Specialists – Newport News
500 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Annex Building 1st Floor
Newport News, VA 23601

Riverside Thoracic & Cardiovascular Surgery
500 J. Clyde Morris Blvd., Building G, Suite 602
Newport News, VA 23601

To Refer a Patient or Schedule an Appointment

To refer a patient to Riverside’s Structural Heart Program, please call 757-594-2074 or make the ambulatory referral to structural cardiology in iCare.

If you have been referred to Riverside’s Structural Heart Program, please call 757-594-2074 to schedule an appointment. Physician referrals are required.