An atrial-septal defect is also commonly known as a "hole in the heart." Explain the effect this congenital defect has on the cardiac cycle.      

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As the question indicates, an atrial septal defect is commonly called a "hole in the heart." Conveniently, the medical name of the defect tells people where the defect is. The septum is the wall that divides the heart into a left and right side. It is a critical component of...

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As the question indicates, an atrial septal defect is commonly called a "hole in the heart." Conveniently, the medical name of the defect tells people where the defect is. The septum is the wall that divides the heart into a left and right side. It is a critical component of the heart because it prevents oxygen-rich blood from mixing with oxygen-poor blood.

The "atrial" part of the name indicates more specifically where the hole in the septum is located. In this particular case, the hole is located in the upper part of the septum that separates the two atria from each other. The atria are the heart's collecting chambers that pump blood down into the ventricles.

The defect makes it possible for oxygenated blood from the left atrium to move directly into the right atrium and mix with the deoxygenated blood. This will increase the volume of blood that gets pumped to the lungs. This is where the potential problems arise for the cardiac cycle as a whole. The size of the atrial septal defect is important. A large defect can cause blood to overfill the lungs. Another danger is that the right side of the heart is being put under additional stress. This causes the right side of the heart to be overworked. Eventually, this might cause the right side of the heart to enlarge and/or weaken. A doctor can usually identify this defect by listening to the heart. A "murmur" can be heard and generally gives doctors an early warning to the problem.

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