BACKGROUND: Surgical repair of muscular ventricular septal defects, particularly those associated with complex heart lesions carries a higher risk of reoperation and death than the repair of membranous defects. Closing a muscular defect through an incision in the systemic ventricle may cause late ventricular dysfunction. In a collaborative approach to this problem, we undertook preoperative transcatheter closure of muscular ventricular septal defects remote from the atrioventricular and semilunar valves, followed by the surgical repair of associated conditions. METHODS: In 12 patients selected jointly by a cardiologist and a cardiac surgeon, we attempted preoperative transcatheter umbrella closure of 21 defects. Half the patients had associated complex heart lesions; the others had had pulmonary-artery banding to reduce the amount of left-to-right shunting. Half had severe ventricular septal deficiency. RESULTS: All 21 defects were successfully closed without major complications. Subsequent cardiac surgery for associated conditions in 11 of the 12 patients resulted in a mean pulmonary-to-systemic flow ratio of 1.1, indicating minimal residual left-to-right shunting; 1 patient awaited surgical repair. No deaths, reoperations, or late complications have occurred after a follow-up of 7 to 20 months. CONCLUSIONS: A collaborative approach using transcatheter closure followed by the surgical repair of associated cardiac lesions may decrease rates of operative mortality, reoperation, and left ventricular dysfunction in patients with muscular ventricular septal defects.