Objectives: To establish the rate of spontaneous closure of atrial septal defects diagnosed before age 3 months, 101 infants (mean age 26 days) with an interatrial shunt confirmed by Doppler echocardiography were followed up for an average of 265 +/- 190 days.
Background: Even if interatrial shunts in the newborn are frequently encountered, little is known about their natural history.
Methods: Defect diameter on two-dimensional echocardiography and width of color flow jet were measured in the subcostal view. Right and left ventricular diameters and atrial septal curvature were also studied. Kaplan-Meier curves were obtained to predict age of spontaneous closure in relation to initial defect diameter.
Results: There was no significant correlation between the diameter of the atrial septal defect and right ventricular/left ventricular ratio or type of septal curvature (vertical or concave toward the left atrium). The classic predominance of girls over boys was observed only for defects > 5 mm. An overall rate of spontaneous closure of 87% was observed. Frequency and timing of closure were inversely correlated to atrial septal defect diameter: closure occurred in 100% (32 of 32) of defects in group 1 (diameter < 3 mm), 87% of defects (39 of 45) in group 2 (diameter 3 to 5 mm), 80% of defects (16 of 20) in group 3 (diameter 5 to 8 mm). Spontaneous closure did not occur in four patients of group 4 (defect > or = 8 mm) during an average follow-up interval of 417 days (range 294 to 597 days).
Conclusions: These results suggest that infants with an atrial septal defect < 3 mm need not be followed up as 100% of these defects will be closed by age 18 months; those with a defect 3 to 5 or 5 to 8 mm should be evaluated by the end of the 12th and the 15th month, respectively, when > 80% of these defects will be closed. An atrial septal defect with a diameter > or = 8 mm may have little chance of closing spontaneously and the possibility of surgical correction should be considered. Defects < 3 mm probably do not constitute a cardiac malformation in light of their natural evolution and gender distribution.