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Clin Anat. 2016 Apr;29(3):290-304. doi: 10.1002/ca.22627. Epub 2015 Oct 7.

Insights regarding the normal and abnormal formation of the atrial and ventricular septal structures.

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Institute of Genetic Medicine, Newcastle University, Newcastle Upon Tyne, United Kingdom.
Division of Biomedical Sciences, St George's, University of London, United Kingdom.
Mill Hill Laboratory, the Francis Crick Institute, United Kingdom.


Knowledge of cardiac development can provide the basis for understanding the morphogenesis of congenital cardiac malformations. Only recently, however, has the quality of information regarding cardiac embryology been sufficient to justify this approach. In this review, we show how such knowledge of development of the normal atrial and ventricular septal structures underscores the interpretation of the lesions that provide the basis for interatrial and interventricular shunting of blood. We show that current concepts of atrial septation, which frequently depend on a suggested formation of an extensive secondary septum, are simplistic. There are additional contributions beyond growth of the primary septum, but the new tissue is added to form the ventral buttress of the definitive atrial septum, rather than its cranial margin, as is usually depicted. We show that the ventricular septum possesses muscular and membranous components, with the entirety of the muscular septum produced concomitant with the so-called ballooning of the apical ventricular component. It is expansion of the atrioventricular canal that creates the inlet of the right ventricle, with no separate formation of an "inlet" septum. The proximal parts of the outflow cushions initially form a septal structure between the developing ventricular outlets, but this becomes converted into the free-standing muscular subpulmonary infundibulum as the aortic outlet is transferred to the left ventricle. These features of normal development are then shown to provide the basis for understanding of the channels that provide the means for interatrial and interventricular shunting.


congenital cardiac malformations; episcopic microscopy; heart development; heart tube; septal defects

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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