HealthWatch: Congenital Heart Defect

Published 07/24 2014 10:03AM

Updated 07/24 2014 10:36AM

Green Bay (WFRV) A person can be born with a congenital heart defect and not even know it. Sometimes that person can go their whole life without incident. In other instances it could be deadly.

27 year old Megan Muenzenmeyer had no idea she had a congenital heart defect that could be deadly.

Megan has always been active. Then suddenly, two years ago, she was having heart palpitations and was tired all the time.

"I was out of breath, every day activities, I mean going up a few steps. I couldn't walk and hold a conversation at the same time," explained Megan Muenzenmeyer, Manitowoc.

So Megan's doctor ordered an echocardiogram, which found a problem.

"It's called an Atrial Septal Defect which is just a hole between the two upper chambers," explained Dr. Matthew Schmidt, Interventional Cardiologist, Aurora BayCare Medical Center.

Megan had no idea she was born with a hole in her heart, "I played softball, I played basketball, you're running. I wasn't the fastest kid on the court. But it never crossed my mind," said Megan.

Dr. Schmidt, an Interventional Cardiologist at Aurora BayCare Medical Center says if the condition is left untreated, "Elevated blood pressure in the lungs and eventually heart failure,".

There are two ways to fix the hole . With open heart surgery, "Which is through a big incision in the chest. It's a huge surgery that carries a fair amount of risk," explained Dr. Schmidt. It also includes several days in the hospital and a long recovery.


Dr. Schmidt chose a minimally invasive method where he snaked a catheter through a vein in the groin- into the heart. He then plugs the whole with an Amplatzer Septal Occluder, "It's just two tiny discs, they sit over the hole and close it up," explained Dr. Schmidt "The hole in the groin is small, the size of a pinhead. There is no cutting involved,".


Megan went home the next day, "I feel like I kind of have a new lease on life at this point, even though I didn't know before," explained Megan.


Today things are a lot different for this mother of an active toddler.

"I could do things in spurts, I would be tired, I would just want to sit. But now I can keep up with him," Megan said happily.


Less than 1-percent of the population has an Atrial Septal Defect, but it can cause problems at any age.

The symptoms include heart palpitations, shortness of breath and swelling in the legs.

To learn more you can call Aurora BayCare at 866-938-0035 or email


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