Children's and adolescents' understanding of their small ventricular septal defects


  • Sheau Wen Lok,

    1. Departments of Paediatric Cardiology, Royal Children's Hospital, Monash Medical Centre, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    2. University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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  • Samuel Menahem

    Corresponding author
    1. University of Melbourne, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
    • Departments of Paediatrics, Monash University, Melbourne, Victoria, Australia
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Correspondence: Samuel Menahem, Emeritus Head, Paediatric Cardiology Unit, Monash Medical Centre, 246 Clayton Road, Clayton, Victoria 3168, Australia. Email:



Congenital heart disease is common yet poorly understood in childhood. We reviewed the understanding of older children and adolescents with the commonest congenital heart defect, namely, a small ventricular septal defect (VSD), through a questionnaire and/or their drawings of their abnormality.


As part of a wider study, older children and adolescents with a small VSD were asked to draw a picture of their cardiac defect in addition to completing a questionnaire.


Twelve of an initial cohort of 20 participants, who were between the ages of 8 and 20 years, completed a drawing of their malformation. Further drawings were obtained from five additional participants recruited from a private practice over the next few years. There were almost equal number of male and female participants overall. Nearly all participants had a limited understanding of their cardiac abnormality as reflected by their drawings. Nevertheless none reported restricting their physical activity.


While most older children and adolescents did not seem to have a clear understanding of their small VSD, it did not appear to affect their daily activity. The participants placed a greater reliance on the information provided by their parents rather than their doctor, emphasizing the importance of informing both the parents and the patient.