Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO) is a small hole located between the two upper chambers of the heart, the right and left atrium. This hole is normally present in the heart before birth. For many people, the PFO closes soon after birth.
PFOs that do not close naturally often have no symptoms and may not require treatment. However, sometimes PFOs can lead to complications, the most significant of which is a stroke. A stroke can result from a traveling blood clot that blocks a blood vessel in the brain. PFOs do not cause most strokes, but having a PFO may slightly increase the risk for stroke in some people. You typically do not need treatment if you have no risk factors for stroke or any history of blood clots.
If you are at risk for a stroke or blood clot, your physician may recommend a Patent Foramen Ovale transcatheter closure to repair this hole in the heart. A transcatheter repair is less invasive than a surgical repair, and patients typically recover more quickly.
Normally, the atrial septum separates the right and left atria, and no blood flows between these two chambers. If a PFO exists, a small amount of blood can flow between the atria, which is not normal. During a transcatheter repair, a closure device is inserted. This device attaches to the end of a long, flexible tube called a catheter. The catheter is inserted through a blood vessel in the groin and guided to the PFO, where the device is left to close the flap. Once the hole is repaired, the catheter is removed.
Treatment for PFOs can vary. In some cases, your physician may decide that no treatment is required. Other choices may include treatment with antiplatelet medicines, such as aspirin; or treatment with anticoagulant medicines, such as Warfarin, to help prevent blood clots.
Please discuss treatment options with your physician.