Background: Discussions continue as to whether ventricular septal defects are best categorized according to their right ventricular geography or their borders. This is especially true when considering the perimembranous defect. Our aim, therefore, was to establish the phenotypic feature of the perimembranous defect, and to establish the ease of distinguishing its geographical variants.

Methods and results: We assessed unrepaired isolated perimembranous ventricular defects from six historic archives, subcategorizing them using the ICD-11 coding system. We identified 365 defects, of which 94 (26%) were deemed to open centrally, 168 (46%) to open to the outlet, and 84 (23%) to the inlet of the right ventricle, with 19 (5%) being confluent. In all hearts, the unifying phenotypic feature was fibrous continuity between the leaflets of the mitral and tricuspid valves. This was often directly between the valves, but in all instances incorporated continuity through the atrioventricular portion of the membranous septum. In contrast, we observed fibrous continuity between the leaflets of the tricuspid and aortic valves in only 298 (82%) of the specimens. When found, discontinuity most commonly was seen in the outlet and central defects. There were no discrepancies between evaluators in distinguishing the borders, but there was occasional disagreement in determining the right ventricular geography of the defect.

Conclusions: The unifying feature of perimembranous defects, rather than being aortic-to-tricuspid valvar fibrous continuity, is fibrous continuity between the leaflets of the atrioventricular valves. While right ventricular geography is important in classification, it is the borders which are more objectively defined.

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Published in Orphanet Journal of Rare Diseases, v. 14, article no. 76, p. 1-10.

© The Author(s). 2019

This article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver (http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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The datasets used and/or analyzed during the current study are available from the corresponding author on reasonable request.