Holes in the heart are a congenital defect, which means they are present at birth and do not develop in adults, according to PubMed Health. However, a different type of hole can occur in adults after a heart attack, explains the Mayo Clinic.
Most of the time, the term "hole in the heart" refers to either an atrial septal defect or a ventricular septal defect, notes PubMed Health. These are similar congenital conditions: atrial septal defects occur in the part of the septum, or inner wall, that separates the two atria, or upper chambers of the heart, and ventricular septal defects occur between the ventricles, or lower chambers.
Heart attacks can severely weaken the muscles of the heart, reports the Mayo Clinic. This can lead to a heart rupture, which is a hole in the wall of the heart due to muscle failure ? a more acute condition that often results in death.
It is not uncommon for children with mild congenital holes in their hearts to go undiagnosed, explains PubMed Health. Many childhood heart defects produce minor or no symptoms until adulthood. Atrial septal defects in particular tend to first show symptoms when the patient is about 30 years old. This can lead some people to believe that the defect developed in adulthood, but in fact the patient was probably born with it. As many as 25 percent of adults may have small congenital holes in their hearts, reports the Sydney Morning Herald.