To elucidate the influence of aging upon the improvement of symptoms and cardiac size associated with surgical repair of atrial septal defect, clinical symptoms, cardiothoracic ratio and hemodynamic variables in older patients (group A; age at operation > or = 50 years old, n = 11) were compared with those in younger patients (group B; age at operation < 50 years old, n = 8). There were no differences in hemodynamic variables, i.e., peak systolic pulmonary pressure, pulmonary to systolic flow ratio (Qp/Qs), pulmonary to systolic vascular resistance ratio (Rp/Rs) and left to right shunt ratio between the two groups. Symptomatic benefits occurred in all patients, although 3 patients in group A who had atrial fibrillation preoperatively still displayed symptoms such as exertional dyspnea. The postoperative (after 3 months) cardiothoracic ratio improved in all patients except for 3 patients in group A who were operated at over 60 years of age. Although there was no significant difference in preoperative cardiothoracic ratio between the two groups, the postoperative cardiothoracic ratio in group B was significantly smaller than that in group A. These results indicate that operative closure of atrial septal defect is recommended for all patients aged 50 years old or older, but early improvement of symptoms and cardiomegaly in older patients is lower than that in younger patients.